Friday, 28 November 2014

Paddington (PG)

In the build up to the release of Paddington's big screen debut, you'd be forgiven for thinking there were scenes of massacres and a bacchanalian orgy.

For reasons which baffled the producers, the BBFC gave the bear from Darkest Peru a PG certificate (meaning youngsters need to go with grown ups) rather than a U (anyone can go).

The reasons where the scary scenes involving Nicole Kidman - and fears children would try walking up banisters a la Paddington - but neither really warrant the 'harsher' certificate'

For one, children are more resilient than they get credit for. For two, most people don't live in a four-storey town house with the type of banister a bear can walk up.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter - because the PG certificate gives adults the excuse many would have been looking for to go and see this children's classic being brought to life.

And see it you must.

From the opening tale of how Paddington and his relatives were discovered, the magic and wonder of Michael Bond's tales are laid before you with all the splendour, warmth and humour you could wish for.

The other 'controversy' prior to release was the replacing Colin Firth with Bond star Ben Wishaw as the voice of the be-pawed one.

A brave move that seems justified from the moment Paddington opens his mouth.

Wishaw brings to the party a sense of wonder and naivety that totally befits a bear arriving in London for the first time - but he's not just a young voice, he is more than capable of being gruff and stern when gruff and stern are required.

Through Wishaw's characterisation we see a familiar city through new eyes, and get to experience the joy of new things along with slapstick mishaps, japes, carry-ons and high drama.

The immigrant from Darkest Peru is helped and supported by a stellar cast who are all clearly having the times of their lives.

Hugh Bonneville as Mr Brown, Sally Hawkins as Mrs Brown, Julie Walters as Mrs Bird, Peter Capaldi as Mr Curry, Jim Broadbent as Mr Gruber - all are the perfect depictions of these much-loved literary characters.

Almost stealing the show is Nicole Kidman as the evil manager of the Natural History Museum who has her own idea on where Paddington should live.

Channelling Cruella Deville, Kidman oozes both malevolence and evil sex appeal, while managing to balance all that with great comic timing - all on tiny heels.

There's also a supporting cast that will keep the grown-ups busy playing 'ooh that's...' throughout the film.

But the real star of the piece is the bear himself.

Creator Michael Bond's daughter, Karen Jankel, said in a recent interview that they had waited 'til now to make sure the animation technology was up to the job - a decision that has been proved to be inspired.

From the moment those brown eyes blink at you over an orange, you're in love - and with every passing scene you fall more in love.

His fur is so real you could almost reach out and stroke him (please don't, he's busy), while his facial expressions are so note perfect they will make your heart melt.

It is key in films such as this that you - and the rest of the cast - connect with the animated animals quickly to allow the film to career on without distraction, and that is totally the case here.

Thanks to the writing of Bond, Paddington is exactly the bear I remember growing up with, causing accidental chaos everywhere he stumbles.

There is a rule on Wittertainment (BBC radio's flagship film programme) that comedies must have more than six laughs - and that test is passed inside the first ten minutes.

And it's not just the slapstick gags that get you. Littered throughout this 90-minute romp are throw-away one-liners which the younger members of the audience will ignore but will have the adults laughing out loud.

The subtle underscoring of a pro-immigration message will also not be lost on many.

The story is also perfectly balanced. Rather than just a straight tale of Kidman's hunt for her bear, there are a series of individual vignettes that tie the whole thing together - all wrapped up in a bow of quintessentially British eccentricity and surrealism.

It became very clear towards the end of the film just how magical and perfect it was.

During a moment of high-tension, there was not a sound to be heard in the screening. Not one child spoke, rustled or shuffled. There was simply one, young, audible gasp.

Everyone, of all ages, was spellbound.

And that's exactly what I wanted from this film.

Having read Paddington's many adventures from the moment I could put sentences together, all I wanted was the magic and humour I remembered brought to life with love, care and attention to detail.

And that's exactly what director Paul King has managed.

From the sadness of a bear abandoned on a station platform and planning to sleep in a bin to the brilliantly tense and funny conclusion, it's clear Peru's hero has found a loving new home.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part One (12A)

Look we all know why this is a two-parter - and it's not "to let the story breathe" as one of the stars claimed on a recent Film 2014.

It's a money spinner, pure and simple, and it's not like you can skip this one because given their habit of assuming everyone has seen the first two you'll have to watch this to know what the hell is going on when Part Two arrives this time next year.

And that's just one of my beef's with the film.

Don't get me wrong, I get the economics - but, like The Hobbit, when a story is stretched beyond breaking point just to make a bit of extra cash you've got to wonder where will it all end now the accountants are in charge.

But, as ever, I digress.

So, the film itself...

In short, as a way of passing time waiting for the action to arrive, it'll do. But it's possibly the longest two-hour film I've seen this year.

Only covering the first third of the book (and still missing out Katniss' military training), Mockingjay 1 picks up where Catching Fire left off, with Katniss being positioned as the figurehead of the rebellion.

And that really is all this film covers - preparing for the final showdown.

They make propaganda films. Katniss rehomes her sister's cat. People argue over Peeta.

It does get gripping late on, but by then you're starting to wonder if President Snow couldn't just crack on and carpet bomb District 13 again.

And I say all this as a fan of the books and the first two films.

The biggest problem is the amount of presumed knowledge this film works with.

Look at other trilogies - say Star Wars and Toy Story - and you can watch any one film and there will be enough time spent catching you up on what's happened that you won't feel like you're missing anything.

Even Harry Potter managed that, across eight films.

Because, for a film to work it has to be able to stand alone. You can't assume the only people watching are the ones who saw the previous instalments.

Any idea why Katniss is stuffing a cat in a bag? Tough, you'll find out later when you've stopped wondering.

Can't remember what the Quarter Quell Games were? No idea why Effie is important to Katniss? Only a vague recollection of the significance of the roses? Best read the books then, or watch the last film again.

All of which is a shame, because when you're not trying to remember what happened before there are some good performances on show here.

Jennifer Lawrence brings a darker feel to Katniss, while Liam Hemsworth moves further out of his brother's shadow by standing taller than in previous HG films as Gale Hawthorne.

Then there's the final performance of Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Sure, Film 2014 didn't think it warranted a mention, and Cineworld's own app doesn't even mention he's in the damn film, but after a rocky opening few minutes he once again stands central to proceedings, providing an under-stated performance which allows others around him to make their presence felt.

In fact, he's so integral to HGM1 (as no one else is calling it), you've got to hope he wrapped up most of his scenes before sadly leaving this mortal coil.

If not, HGM2 is going to have a damn great hole in it.

Oh, and another moment of annoyance - having spent well over 90 minutes expecting the audience to know what's already happened, they then feel the need to explain what Tracker Jacker venom is.


And Katniss has to ask if Cinna (played by Lenny Kravitz in the first two films) had died despite having watched him being dragged away and beaten to a bloody pulp.

Of all the things we're expected to remember, and they have to remind you of something that has no bearing on this film? Sheesh...

That's not to say, even with all this griping and moaning, that HGM1 is a bad film, it's not - it's just nowhere near as good as the first two.

It's a place holder, a filler, the sorbet before desert arrives.

I expect next year's finale to be a humdinger - and after this, it really needs to be.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Mr Turner (12A)

I've always believed that it is the young people of today who are tricky to be around when watching a film - given their tendency to chatter, use phones and eat noisily and wot not.

But I take that back.

After my experience watching Mr Turner, it would seem that the older cinema goer needs to have a word with themselves.

It won't be a quiet word, sadly, but a word is needed nonetheless.

We had many a noisy sweet wrapper, whispered comments that could be heard by everyone and at one point someone dropped their lunch box.

Got to love an Orange Wednesday.

Still, on the upside, I'll wager it's patrons such as these that have kept Mr Turner in cinemas for the past two weeks and - at last glance - well into next week too.

Which given it's subject matter, is quite an achievement.

At a time when turtles and mockingjays rule the roost (and sewer), to have a lengthy biopic on one of the nation's foremost landscape painters still filling cinemas quite warms the cockles.

As for the film itself, while it may be long (almost two and a half hours) thanks to the brilliant portrayal by Timothy Spall the time - while not flying by - certainly doesn't drag.

Attempting to span most of Turner's life as an established painter is no small ask, and the way the majority of the supporting cast are passed through like visitors to a museum does mean the film lacks a certain depth.

But that shouldn't detract from the main players.

As I said, Spall is playing the role of his life, while Dorothy Atkinson provides a wonderfully comic turn as Turner's maid/lover.

What we learn about Turner from the film is probably nothing more than is already available in books and online, but Spall gives a somewhat unlikeable man a warmth and humility that balances nicely against his harsher moments.

(He was never in the running for dad of the year, for example.)

The film itself looks - as you'd hope given the subject - amazing, with vast landscapes sweeping before you before the focus closes in on the subject of the scene.

And I do think this is a film that benefits from being seen further back in the cinema.

The one area the film falls down is in the actual story.

Rather than giving us one event in great detail, we are treated to a selection of scenes - with the passing of the years being marked with the changing of the cats.

Now while there's a case to be made for this mirroring looking at the work of Turner (you spend five minutes with one painting then move on), it tends to have the feeling of a tapestry rather than a single great piece.

But that, amazingly, doesn't detract from what was a great film.

Those who know about such things have taken issue with the portrayal of some of the famous people Turner knew (apparently Ruskin was far from a buffoon), but for the rest of us mere mortals he's funny.

And the time really didn't drag.

Given that I was checking my watch inside the first hour of Interstellar, at no point did I find myself wondering how long I had been sitting in my seat.

As Turner's life switches between Margate and London, you go with him happily, enjoying the journey of inspiration giving birth to art.

And that is probably this film's finest triumph.

A man sketching then going home and painting is not the thing of high drama and action, yet Spall and director Mike Leigh provide a masterclass in the detail being the key.

If anyone had told me yesterday I'd be caught up and mesmerised by a man mixing paint and spitting on a canvas I would have laughed.

And I'm laughing now, but that's down to Atkinson's fine timing and facial expressions.

Sure, Spall will get the plaudits and award nominations, but if Atkinson is overlooked then we'll know the critics weren't looking at the whole picture.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Get On Up (12A)

Today was one of those rarest of days - an empty cinema. Right up to the point where a second person shambled in.

Which wouldn't have ruined the experience, but for them taking the time to check their ticket to make sure they sat in exactly the right seat.

Which, of course, was the one behind mine. Typical.

Fortunately the shuffling, sniffing and rustling of a carrier bag stopped just as the opening scenes of Get On Up came grooving onto the screen.

Now, as you might have guessed from the title, Get On Up focuses on the life of one Mr James Brown, a little-known musician who had an obscure hit in the 1970s...

Taking the lead role is the great Chadwick Boseman - last seen in 42 - and, this being a biopic n all, the success of the film mostly hangs on his performance.

Panic not.

From a young James stuck in "pokey" for stealing a suit from a car to an older man reclaiming his former glories, Boseman brings the troubled Godfather Of Soul to life in such a way that you can't help but warm to him.

Which is no mean feat, given how unlikeable Mr Brown became as his success grew.

Alongside him is Nelson Ellis, off of True Blood, who more than holds his own as Mr Brown's longtime No2 and old friend Bobby Byrd.

The film starts with the events that were to lead to Mr Brown's infamous arrest following a car chase with the police, before taking us back and forth through the years, leaping from one point to the next with no linear structure.

Once you get used to this, you can settle into and informative, well-told biopic that puts it's focus on the music far more than the man.

That's not to say his drug use, treatment of women and issues with fellow musicians aren't touched on, but they really do play second fiddle to the hits and building of a legend.

Which is fine as far as it goes, but the songs are so well known it would have been good to focus more on the stories behind them.

Sure, we find out (over several inter-cut scenes) about Mr Brown's formative years, but simply telling Bobby to hire Bootsie (Collins - ask yer dad) when his band walks out on him (and then not dwelling on how he came back from financial ruin) feels like a beat missed.

And those aren't the only problems here.

A well-worn cinematic device to denote the passing of time is used on several occasions for seemingly no reason other then the look of the thing, while the breaking of the fourth wall is slightly out of kilter with the tone of the movie as a whole.

And switching to the original recordings instead of letting Boseman handle vocal duties was also a mis-step, as the clearly audible switch detracted from his fine on-stage performances.

But there are more positives than negatives.

The music is obviously stand-out, but it's the rest of the cast that catch the eye and the heart.

Dan Ackroyd, as Mr Brown's long-time agent Ben Bart, is spot-on, while Viola Davis' portrayal of Mr Brown's mother is simply stunning.

If Wikipedia is to be believed, writers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth play fast and loose with the actual time-line, but speaking as someone who didn't know that while watching the film it's only going to be an issue for the real aficionados.

Director Tate Taylor may like doing some things for the sake of it, but in terms of the tone and look of the film, he captures the different periods well.

Could have done without inter-cutting scenes of Boseman's Mr Brown with the original TV show audience, but hey, I guess he had access to the footage and figured he ought to use it.

A good biopic should, all being well, introduce you to something you didn't know about the subject - something which is tricky when Mr Brown lived out his life willingly in the public glare.

He was ahead of his time in terms of the cult of celebrity as well as his music.

But thanks to fine performances from the leading cast, you are introduced to something new - sympathy for a man who almost seemed to make being disliked his life's ambition.

Yes, he had a casual approach to guns, yes he followed in his father's footsteps when it came to women, yes he thought smoking drugs while wearing curlers was a sensible way to spend and afternoon...

...but, thanks to the power of Boseman's performance, you accept such things as the effects of a flawed genius, who took black music to the masses and gave us all his groove.

Monday, 17 November 2014

The Drop (15)

There is a point some 20 minutes into The Drop when Noomi Rapace turns to Tom Hardy and says "be patient" - and already you're not sure if she's talking to him or issuing a plea to the audience.

Because while this film may be being billed as a thriller, it also wants to be a black comedy - and it takes forever to get anywhere close to either.

Which is frankly criminal when you've got a cast this good (Hardy and Rapace are joined by the late James Gandolfini in what turned out to be his final film role).

The story is a simple one - it's about a man and his dog, rescued from a bin (trash can if you speak American).

It's also about robbery and crime, communities and their secrets, people looking out for themselves, family, relationships a weirdo in a hat and a religious cop who may or may not be good at his job.

Like I said, simple.

Oh, and the title comes from gang bosses picking a different bar each night for everyone to drop off their dirty money so it can go get laundered. Don't worry, it's all explained in a handy voice-over at the start.

On the face of it, it should work - but somewhere along the way director Michael R Roskam (making only his second full-length feature following the critical success of Bullhead) lost sight of what he was trying to achieve.

The characters are - with the possible exception of Hardy's Bob - all cliche's you've seen in so many other films they blur into one, while the dialogue comes straight from The Big Book Of Mafia-Type Movies.

The result is top class actors delivering lines they can't quite believe and playing out scenes they're not quite sure they understand.

And then there's the pace of the damn thing.

To be a thriller, it needs to move much quicker, and have different speeds, not just cruise along in second gear.

And yes, I understand that the dog is more than a dog, but do we really need to spend so much time using it to set up Bob's relationship with Rapace's Nadia?

No, thought not.

Hell, I've spend less time in pet shops and I've got three (or four, I lose count) of the bloody things. And cats.

And why did we suddenly go all Oceans 11 during the Super Bowl night drop? It was like we suddenly stepped into a totally different film for 10 minutes.

I wouldn't have minded, but it was actually worse than the one we left.

So, a thriller that doesn't thrill, or a black comedy lacking laughs?

Well, it's both - in the final 20 minutes.

The explosive conclusion will make you jump, have you at least mildly gripped, and certainly produce some chuckles.

It's just criminal that it took so long to get there.

Danny Wossisface on Film 2014 said this was a fitting end to Gandolfini's career. It's not. He was better in Enough Said and In The Loop for a start, and they're both far better films.

Others have called it gripping. It's not.

What it is is some interesting scenes thrown together in a slipshod manner, building quite by accident to an enjoyable conclusion that would have been equally as enjoyable without the preceding 90 minutes of ho-humery.

Good looking dog though.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Imitation Game (12A)

When the first trailers for The Imitation Game surfaced, I - along with just about everyone I know - got very excited.

What was promised was a gripping tale about the man who invented the machine that would break the German codes and turn the tide of the Second World War in the Allies' favour.

It also promised to tell the story of the man himself, and not just his achievements. A tale that needed telling.

So walking into the cinema I found myself in buoyant mood, high on anticipation and expectation.

I wasn't expecting to walk out two hours later fuming and angry - and the fact I did is testament to just how good a job Benedict Cumberbatch (as Turing) and director Morten Tyldum did in bringing this odd-ball maths genius to the screen.

But I'll get to the anger later. Let's start with the good stuff.

Told in flashback during police interview (being gay wasn't just frowned upon in the 1950s, it was a crime), Turing takes us from the events that undid him to the events that made him.

Bullied at school ("mother always says I'm an odd duck"), Cumberbatch perfectly captures a man who understands numbers and puzzles but is left baffled by the real world.

From his opening exchanges with Charles Dance's Commander Denniston, we can see that Turing's bluntness and superior intellect are not traits that will endear him to many.

The fact you not only warm to him but almost fall in love with him shows just how stunning Cumberbatch's performance is.

Bouncing between his school days, events at the Manchester police station and the work being undertaken at Bletchley Park, we see our hero through all the highs and lows of his secretive life - culminating in how he solves the biggest puzzle of his life.

That's not a spoiler, by the way. If it is, you need to go and read a bit more war history and play less Warcraft.

Along the way we meet MI6's Stewart Menzies (the wonderful Mark Strong), Turing's team at Bletchley (Matthew Goode, Allen Leech and Matthew Beard) and the woman without whom none of it would have happened (Keira Knightley in probably the finest performance of career).

I say that because while the film is about Turing, and Turing had the ideas that won the war, the real hero is Knightley's Joan Clarke.

Without her, Turing can't learn how to actually interact with human beings. And without her the final piece of the puzzle doesn't turn up.

And, combined with Cumberbatch's performance, it is through Joan's eyes that we see that Turing can be liked and loved - adding a huge emotional weight to an already thrilling story.

Because it really is thrilling.

Sometimes, when you already know the outcome of an historical event, you can find yourself sitting back and just watching the story unfold - more interested in the how than the what, if you will.

But here Tyldum has measured things perfectly, and you find yourself holding your breath as Turing's machine whirs and cranks for what could be the final time.

And you share in the joy and elation of the team when they make the breakthrough - and then fall with them as they realise they have actually created an even bigger problem.

The Imitation Game is a near-perfect marriage of direction, acting and storytelling - right down to the subtle colour and tonal shifts to depict the three different eras being recounted.

So how, I hear you wonder, can a film that's this damn good (and funny - oh yes, there are laughs to add to the drama, tension and tears) leave one be-hatted critic so angry.


There is a point at the end of The Imitation Game where a fact appears on the screen - Alan Turing committed suicide in 1954, at the age of 41 (again, not a spoiler, it's been known for a while).

This is followed by the fact he was given a Royal Pardon in 2013, following a conviction for indecency that led to his early death.

Now, issues with the fact I'm 41 at the time of writing this aside, look at those dates again.

Died in 1954, pardoned in 2013.

That's how long it took the British establishment to get round to recognising not only Turing's hero status, but to correct a wrong that should have been averted in 1954.

The fact the powers-that-be didn't step in and prevent Turing from being prosecuted just adds further shame on the whole affair.

He'd done his job, so they washed their hands of him.

And he paid the ultimate price.

Now, chances are, these facts alone would have left me pretty angry anyway, but combined with Cumberbatch's stunningly powerful portrayal of a socially maladjusted maths genius, they added to the feeling that these things happened to someone I had come to really care about.

And I can't remember the last time a film made me feel that way.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Interstellar (12A)

You've got to hand it to Mr 'Batman Begins' Nolan - he doesn't do things by halves.

From Memento to Inception, he never seems to be happier than when he's both challenging his audience and himself.

Not for him the Michael Bay approach of louder is better. Although they do both like a long film.

And sweet Jesus, Interstellar is a long film.

It's not just the near-three hour running time, it's how time - ironically - passes so slowly in this particular universe.

Fourty minutes in and I was already checking my watch, as the opening scenes played out nice and slowly.

And that's to say they were dull, it's just a bit more oomph would have been very much appreciated.

And it doesn't need to be three hours long. You could shave an hour off and you'd have a gripping movie.

Instead, you have long periods of 'tum ti tum' moments in between the edge-of-the-seat nail-bitey bits.

Granted, he is trying to pack a lot in as we ruminate on life, love, time, space, family, humanity, purpose, black holes and relativity.

And I may have missed something.

For the uninitiated, Interstellar is the simple tale of one man's bid to save humanity from imminent starvation by sending a ship into space to find another planet to live on.

That's the short version.

And as ever with a Nolan epic (and by buggery it feels epic), Interstellar looks amazing.

Desperate to avoid a Pete Bradshaw and give away spoilers, it's hard to talk in detail about just how stunning the scenes are as they unfold before your disbelieving eyes.

Suffice to say that from the opening drive through the cornfield, you know you're in for something special.

And the scenes in space (we know they go out there, that's fine) take Gravity up a notch or three.

You also really feel like you're walking on the.... nope, I've said too much.

The other huge plus point is the cast.

Matthew McConaughey continues his recent fine body of work by leading from the front with another captivating performance, while alongside him Anne Hathaway, Casey Affleck, Jessica Chastain, John Lithgow and the stunning Mackenzie Foy all bring their A game.

Hell, even Michael Caine is on good form, providing an unusually under-stated turn as the head of... Nope, better not say.

The only issue with the film - other than the running time - is the actual story.

For the first half, all is good - and while you may have questions, everything is strong enough to carry you along.

It's the second half where things start to unravel.

The first half of the second half (keep up) is all well and good, but is trying to be too thought-provoking when the action is more than enough.

It's the final quarter (the second half of the second half if you will), where your brain starts falling out of your ears if you think about it too much.

Which is a huge shame, because there are moments here that really do have you holding your breath or jumping out of your skin.

Or both.

The escape from a ginormous tidal wave in particular will have you clinging to the arms of your seat.

It just doesn't - and I can't stress this enough - need to be that long.

By dragging everything out for so long, Nolan is pushing the patience of his audience to the limit.

And I know there are people who don't agree. There are people who think this is an instant classic, is Oscar-worthy, is probably his best film ever.

It's none of those things (if for no other reason Inception is better), although I wouldn't rule out a Best Film nod - if only because the Academy won't want to admit they didn't understand it.

What it is is a brave attempt at an intelligent sci-fi blockbuster, which raises some interesting questions, provides some great action, is wonderfully shot and brilliantly performed.

It just needed to be shorter. And have better robots.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Say When (15) (AKA Laggies)

Indie comedies are a funny old beast - they're subtle, understated and often thought-provoking.

They can also, on occasion, misfire spectacularly.

And while Say When definitely leans towards the former, something about it is just well...

Let's start at the start.

We have Keira Knightley playing a 20-something someone (Megan). A someone who knows not who she is or what she wants.

She's managed to drift through life quite brilliantly, to the extent she's late to her friend's hen party because she was busy waving a "tax office" sign outside her father's business.


I mean come on, who the hell drives along, sees that sign, and suddenly thinks "shit, of course, I don't understand my tax returns!"?

But I digress.

Megan is still friends with her old schoolfriends - with whom she has little in common - and is still with her High School boyfriend Anthony (played by Mark Webber).

While drifting along, events conspire to make Megan wonder where the hell her life is going.

Her solution is to lie to everyone and run away. So far, the most sensible thing she's done with her life.

Running away leads her to the house of Annika (played brilliantly by Chloe Grace Moretz), a shoolgirl she befriended while running away from her best friend's wedding.

So naturally, she ends up staying with the schoolgirl - and her dad - while pretending to everyone else that's she's at some personal growth seminar.

At this point you, as the viewer, have a decision to make.

Either get on board with the conceit that a 20-something would enjoy hanging out with a 15/16 year old, or get off the bus.

I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but it raises more questions than it answers.

And this is a film that raises a lot of questions, right from the off. When you find yourself asking, two minutes in, who the hell took the swimming pool picture then, you know you're in for an interesting time.

But anyway, where was I?

Oh yes, lying to all and bunking with her new friend.



From here, we're into the realms of personal journey shrama, as only an American indie comedy can do.

Megan makes mistakes and learns stuff. Annika makes mistakes and learns about other people's mistakes right on cue (well not quite, I was banking on counting to three before she appeared in one scene, and it was on 2 and a half).

Children learn from adults and vice versa and all is good.

I know I'm sounding dismissive at this point, and I don't mean to be. The film is what it is, and does it perfectly well.

Although you can only call it a comedy during the scenes with Sam Rockwell.

Playing the divorced divorce lawyer and dad to Annika, the film comes alive when he's on screen.

It's not obvious, the pace doesn't change, but there's a noticeable shift from the film staring at its shoes to looking up and smiling.

And that's the main problem with this film.

While well made and fairly well written, it kind of feels like a bolognese with a key ingredient missing.

Yes, it's still recognisable as what it's meant to be, but something's not quite right.

It's not the editing, which is a bit overly harsh at times, it's not Lynn Shelton's direction (even if the odd shot raises eyebrows), it just feels a little flat.

And it's not even the fact that the final scene made me almost shout at the screen (a personal thing I know, but I was really hoping for a different ending).

I suspect part of the problem can be laid at the doors of focus groups (which would also explain why it's called Laggies in America, and we get Say When - a title which actually makes less sense).

It feels too safe, too sanitised. A film that could have had more on an edge but lost the courage of it's convictions.

To be fair to Knightley, she does well. OK, the American accent jars slightly to these ears, but overall she convinces as a shallow woman who hasn't bothered to actually mature and grow up.

She's outshone by Rockwell, sure, and CGM (as her friends probably call her) too for that matter, but I can't think of a film Rockwell hasn't stolen.

And CGM is custom-made for this stuff.

No, the actors are not at fault. Far from it. It's just this is a potentially filling dish crying out for some spice.

See, Laggies. Nope, no idea.