Friday, 5 March 2010

Losing the plot

A couple of recent films have had me thinking about when it's appropriate for a reviewer to give away a crucial plot twist. I think anything up to about a third of the way through is fair game. Much less and I don't see how you can convey a sense of a writer or director's ambition; too much and readers are naturally going to be disappointed/angry.

Writer/director Mia-Hansen Løve's latest, The Father of My Children, presents a particular problem as the film's emphasis shifts quite notably halfway through. I think it's possible to write about this very accomplished feature, about a film producer and the effects of his stressful job on himself and his family, without giving too much away but is that right? In his Sight & Sound review, Ryan Gilbey makes no bones about revealing the moment that serves as the film's axis but, then, S&S does lay bare every new film's plot in its detailed synopses.

Probably my other favourite film of the year thus far, A Single Man, is another case in point. Based on a book with which some viewers/readers may be familiar, there's perhaps less compunction about giving away the theme of the single day in the life of college professor George Falconer (an excellent and suitably awarded Colin Firth) featured in Tom Ford's film.

Both films have at their centre depression and mortality; interestingly, The Father of My Children creates a sense of menace at what should be its happiest moments. I don't think I'm the only one who finds the family's holiday scene touched by impending horror. It's out today - do catch Hansen-Løve's film for its maturity, the fluidity of its narrative and an exceptional performance by Louis-Do de Lencquesaing as the troubled film producer, as well as those of the children to whom he is father.

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