Lucy Popescu

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Posts Tagged ‘John Hurt’

Film Review – That Good Night

Posted by lucypopescu on May 12, 2018


There is the uncanny sense of art imitating life in Eric Styles’ poignant, end of life drama, featuring John Hurt’s swansong. That Good Night is about a man dealing with his impending death and Hurt was himself terminally ill when the film was shot.

Ralph Maitland (Hurt), an egotistical screenwriter in his seventies, enjoys a comfortable existence in Portugal with is loving younger wife, and former nurse, Anna (Sofia Helin, The Bridge). When Ralph discovers he has only a few months to live he attempts to reconnect with Michael (Max Brown), his estranged son from an earlier marriage, and put his affairs in order. Ralph expects his family to drop everything when he wants them to and they generally oblige. But when Michael, also a writer, arrives in Portugal with his girlfriend Cassie (Erin Richards), Ralph sees her presence as an intrusion and a threat to the already fragile bond with his son. Bristling with impotent rage, Ralph repeatedly snubs her. Wrapped up in each other, Michael and Cassie try to take Ralph’s rudeness in their stride but inevitably tempers fray and emotions come to a head.

Unbeknown to his family, Ralph hires “the visitor” (Charles Dance), an enigmatic Englishman dressed in a white linen suit, who appears to represent a euthanasia organisation. Ralph wants him to ease his way “into that good night”, the film’s leitmotif inspired by Dylan Thomas’s poem, but the visitor has other ideas. The most affecting scenes involve the interactions between these two fine actors – Dance, still full of vigour; Hurt, gaunt and frail.

Charles Savage’s script, adapted from the stage play by N. J. Crisp, is hampered by a weak, predictable storyline. The main conflict That Good Night turns on is whether Ralph will be able to resolve things with Michael before he dies. We are not surprised when Michael reminds Ralph that he has never been a good parent, nor when they start writing together. This lacklustre emphasis on Ralph’s reconciliation with Michael, and the fact that Cassie holds the key, swiftly deflates our interest. Euthanasia and Anna’s enforced childlessness are provocative subjects and more could have been made of them. But the men’s troubled relationship takes centre stage and Helin and Dance are frustratingly underused.

There is the inevitable pleasure to be had in Hurt’s charismatic screen presence, but Ralph is two dimensional and we never get a real sense of his kinder, more sympathetic side. This is hinted at in his exchanges with his maid’s son Ronlodo (Noah Jupe), who cleans the pool and yearns to be a writer, but most of the time Ralph is so curmudgeonly towards his nearest and dearest that he quickly loses our respect. The picturesque backdrop is beautifully shot by DP Richard Stoddard, but Thomas’s poem, full of passionate intensity, advocated raging against death, against “the dying of the light”. If Styles’ had focused on Ralph’s battle within himself, his fury as he is forced to withdraw from life, it would have made a more engaging subject.

Review originally published by





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Film review – Lou

Posted by lucypopescu on August 16, 2011

Directed by Belinda Chayko

Released by Matchbox Films (rrp  £15.99)

Certificate:  15 Running Time:  82mins 

LOU, directed and written by Belinda Chayko (BORED OLIVES) and starring legendary British actor John Hurt, is a tender, heartfelt film about one girl’s rite of passage. Set against the dramatic landscape of rural New South Wales, harried single mum Rhia (Emily Barclay) struggles to bring up her three daughters, hounded by debt collectors and the fear of being left on the shelf at twenty-seven. She’s also having problems with her eldest daughter, eleven-year-old Lou (a stunning debut from Lily Bell-Tindley) who she relies on to look after her younger sisters when she’s at work. Both mother and daughter feel abandoned and blame the other for the abrupt departure of Lou’s dad ten months earlier.

Desperate for money, Rhia agrees to temporarily take in her father-in-law, Doyle (Hurt in a pitch-perfect performance), who is suffering from Alzheimer’s and waiting for a hospital bed to become available. But it is Lou, rather than Rhia, who gradually befriends and looks after the former merchant seaman.

At first, Doyle is confused and causes chaos with his frequent outbursts, erratic wanderings and irrational night-time fears but things take an unexpected turn when he starts to believe that Lou is actually his former wife who left him for another man. In between bouts of paranoia, Doyle softens and begins to court Lou who, flattered by the attention, goes along with his fantasy.

Relations between mother and daughter become further strained when Rhia, worried where it might all lead, forbids Lou to play along with Doyle. Lou, already dealing with the uneasy transition from childhood into puberty, has to confront her own fledgling feelings for the boy next door which, in turn, arouses Doyle’s jealousy. Inevitably it all comes to a head and Lou decides to take flight with Doyle.

LOU is Chayko’s first major film in a decade (her main body of work is in television) and it is impressive how much she achieves on a low budget. There is much to admire, from Hurt and Barclay’s finely nuanced performances to Bell-Tindley’s assured debut. Australian Hugh Miller’s wonderful cinematography, in particular the burning of the cane fields, interspersed with the claustrophobia of the domestic scenes, adds a dreamlike quality to the film. Miller also captures the shimmer of the heat haze and the sense of wide open space stretching for miles around.

As a dissection of familial relations, LOU is flawless and the deliberately understated emotions of its principle characters are also part of the film’s charm. But despite some stunning landscape shots, and a terrific cast, this low key drama about finding love when you least expect it, remains essentially a small screen rather than a cinematic experience.

Originally published by Cine-Vue





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