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British Film Focus

by on October 16, 2013
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Every month, I’ll introduce you to some little-known British films and even some from across the Channel in Europe, along with any entertaining pieces of news or perhaps an actor or director profile of someone well-known or someone up-and-coming.

 Coming Soon: ‘The Invisible Woman’

bff12 invisible woman - inside

Elements needed for a British drama to appeal to the masses — a world-famous author, cream of the British acting crop, scenes of emotional torment amid beautiful English countryside and an acclaimed director.

In “The Invisible Woman,” due out in late December (UK), it’s Charles Dickens, Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Hollander, a torrid affair involving a young actress and Ralph Fiennes again.

His directorial debut was a British film of a very different sort. In 2011, his Shakespearean adaptation of “Coriolanus” was released — a violent and intense drama set in modern Rome and one to perk up the critics and public’s attention.

He’s gone for something more low-key this time and adapted a novel, with screenwriter Abi Morgan (“The Iron Lady”), by Claire Tomalin, detailing an affair Dickens had with a young actress — a Victorian version of a “groupie”, if you will.

On the one hand, Dickens was a magazine editor who produced some of the most famous novels in literary history, raising money for impoverished children. On the other, he was a troubled man battling childhood traumas who left his wife after many years and brought her reputation as he did so to ease the negative focus on himself.

One can sympathise greatly with Dickens’ wife, Catherine (Joanna Scanlan), who seems forgotten by her husband, even after giving him 10 children. Her few scenes make their mark on the story, however, and she’s obviously worn out with neglect. Despite this, and inklings about her husband’s impending infidelity, on meeting the “groupie,” she holds her own and treats the actress with pity instead of hostility, knowing full well what kind of man she’s about to get herself involved with.

But this isn’t about him. The plot revolves around Nelly Turnan (Felicity Jones of 2010’s “Cemetery Junction”), an aspiring young actress and hardcore fan of Dickens’ work. We enter the story in the future with Turnan walking on the beach in Margate, thinking back to her time on stage under Dickens’ direction.

In general, “The Invisible Woman” has a lot less pomp and frills than other period dramas of similar persuasion. This is no doubt due to Fiennes, who has better taste and a sense when to do away with the fluff and get down to some serious Victorian repression. A more subdued British period drama, perhaps, but this is a good thing, for it may last a while longer on screen and leave a deeper mark on the viewer’s mind.

Coming Soon: ‘Dom Hemingway’

bff12 hemingway - inside

At one time, Jude Law seemed to be splashed across British newspapers every week. Now, after the demise of the News of the World newspaper and a large compensation, he’s leading a life away from the limelight.

By the age of 30, Law had already made a number of successful films including “The Talented Mr Ripley” (1999), which won him a BAFTA award and world recognition as a serious actor, and he had three children with wife Sadie Frost.

Scandals in his private life overshadowed his successes onscreen, and his roles in the last couple of years perhaps were secondary ones because of this, in comparison to the beginning of his career. He showed new depths as repressed husband Karenin in Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina” (2012) and was well placed in “Side Effects” (2013) alongside Rooney Mara.

His next film, due out in November, is Richard Shepard’s black comedy “Dom Hemingway.” Law put on weight to play the lead role; testing his limits of what is true preparedness, he was quite literally sick of the diet, which consisted of smoking and a lot of Coca Cola.

After doing his duty and spending years in prison, safe-cracker Dom is released and out to collect the payoff due for time spent. With his best pal Dickie (Richard E. Grant), he sets off for the Cote d’Azur to track down the crime boss for the money. Of course, things don’t go according to plan.

The film is less about the story and more about the characters and their relationships. Law is pushing the boundaries of his acting talent and expanding on his skills. Grant looks to be magnificent as the eccentric sidekick accompanying Dom on his journey. Let’s hope he doesn’t overshadow Law, after all his dietary efforts to prepare.

UK Film News

bff12 hobbit - inside

Ben Wheatley, director of the thrillers “Kill List” and “Sightseers” and also most recently “A Field In England,” has been picked to direct the first two episodes of the new BBC series of “Doctor Who.” He’ll direct Scottish actor Peter Capaldi (2009’s “In the Loop”), who stars at the new Doctor. The eighth season will air next autumn.

Staying on the topic of Doctor Who, ex-Time Lord Matt Smith is returning to the stage for his next project as psychopathic yuppie killer Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho.” The production will open this December at the Almeida Theatre in London and, if it’s successful, will move to Broadway.

There’s a new trailer released for the next installment of “The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug,” due for release in a couple of months. Smaug makes his appearance, something they didn’t hold out on until the last film, which must mean there’s plenty of story to go (memories of the novel are a distant one).

This promises to be a Smaug-centric film, I think, as a couple of characters anticipated are still as yet to be introduced (Stephen Fry as the master of Lake-town, for one). For the ladies, there looks to be lots of Legolas (Orlando Bloom back in the blond wig) action. His stunts have taken on a more dangerous edge, and there’s a new, red-haired, lady elf too: Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel.

Finally, Danny Boyle is set to direct his first TV show in 12 years. “Babylon” is a six-part series, an intimate look at a police force, written by the same team that brought us the comedy TV series “Peep Show”. The cast is led by U.S. actress Brit Marling (2011’s “Another Earth”) and also stars James Nesbitt (of “Hobbit” fame).

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