‘Never Let Me Go’

An adaptation of Nobel prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguru’s 2005 novel, Never Let Me Go is a profound allegory to life and its ephemeral nature along with ethical questions on ‘humanity’. But, narrated by Kathy (Carey Mulligan – An Education, The Dig), it is also a coming-of-age love story – a triangle between an overbearing, somewhat bossy Ruth (Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game, Official Secrets), the quiet, contemplative Kathy and a socially awkward, unaware Tommy who is so obviously more suited to Kathy than Ruth.

As boarders at a isolated yet idyllic school, the three become friends. Their futures are never clarified but it’s apparent not everything is as it should be. The three eventually drift apart as young adults and into a life unexpected. Several years later, the three connect, with Tommy (Andrew Garfield – Hackshaw Ridge, The Amazing Spider-Man) realising too late his true feelings.

An unsettling tale with excellent central performances, Mark Romanek (director of predominantly music videos) fails to instill any sense of real emotion in its telling: the premise (as is the novel) is haunting, the film no more than touching.

Rating: 64%

‘Wife of a Spy’

On the cusp of entering the Secord World War, Japan is divided. Tradition and outward looking-modernisation are at odds as Satoko (Yu Aoi – Journey to the Shore, Birds Without Names), the wife of a successful fabric merchant, discovers her husband Yusaku (Issey Takahashi – Blank 13, Kill Bill) is a subversive.

An uneasy melodrama develops as an initially suspicious and jealous Satoko discovers more and more, convinced Yusaku is having an affair. Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Journey to the Shore,Tokyo Sonata) threads into the narrative romance, politics and Hitchcockian spy thriller, an approach that won him the Best Director Silver Lion at the 2020 Venice Film Festival.

Rating: 61%


The Aliens storyline, with more than a nod to The Poseidon Adventure, moves to the deep as scientist Norah Price (Kristen Stewart – Twilight, Seberg) finds herself heading a small group of surviving colleagues following a sudden underwater earthquake and the devastating damage to their deepwater research and drilling facility.

It’s thrilling enough as the small team is slowly reduced in number – heroic sacrifices, sudden accidents – with a solid Stewart equipping herself well as she leads the likes of Vincent Cassel (Black Swan, La haine) and Mamoudou Athie (The Circle, Black Box) through the murk and mire of underwater.

As to be expected with its big budget genre, director William Eubank (Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin, The Signal) focuses on the action but throws in an environmental message mixed in with the thrills and spills.

Rating: 57%

‘Goliath’ (Season 1)

Whilst hardly original in its storyline, Goliath remains an addictive, superior investigative crime/courtroom drama as alcoholic Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton), a former high flying lawyer, reluctantly finds himself drawn back into high stake legal battles.

Approached to investigate a wrongful death/suicide involving armaments giants, Borns Tech, McBride is initially uninterested. But the death of the potential client and involvement of his former firm, Cooperman McBride, more than piques McBride’s interest. Ex-wife (Maria Bello) successfully continues to work there and an almost reclusive Cooperman (William Hurt) holds a very personal grudge.

What develops is unquestionably a David versus Goliath scenario as a very personable McBride surrounds himself in his long-stay Santa Monica motel rooms with extremely likeable colleagues. Ambition, penthouse office suites and multi-million dollar salaries are at odds with the likes of a loud Patty Solis-Papagian (Nina Arianda), a small-time DUI lawyer and real estate agent who originally brought the case to McBride or the sex worker Brittany (Tania Raymonde), helping out as a paralegal as she owes McBride.

Odd things happen as the storylines ebb and flow between the personal, the courtroom and corporate corruption. Cooperman is out to destroy his former partner of one of the most successful legal companies in the world. And if he destroys the careers of his ambitious female staff members along the way as he plays them off against each other, so be it.

It’s the compelling performances that seriously hold the attention in Goliath over its eight part first season – along with an insight into a different Los Angeles that normally takes centre stage.

Rating 78%

‘We’re the Millers’

A silly, minor distraction as goofy dope dealer David (Jason Sudeikis – TV’s Saturday Night Live, Ted Lasso), robbed of the week’s takings, is forced to travel to Mexico to bring back into the US a shipment of marijuana.

Recognising a single white stoner male would attract the wrong attention from border police, David hires a RV and creates a family of outcasts down on their luck. Exotic dancer and neighbour Rose (Jennifer Anniston – Dumplin‘, The Good Girl) takes some convincing, particularly when she discovers the role involves playing mother to two teenagers.

Getting to Mexico is one thing, returning chock full of illicit drugs is another as the Millers discover they’ve been duped. Naturally, plenty of camping adventures and cartel confrontations are lampooned as the new family bond. Playing for laughs, director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Central Intelligence, Skyscaper) occasionally hits the right note (Kathryn Hahn – Bad Moms, Captain Fantastic – is there, after all) but the thin, predictable premise soon runs out of air.

Rating: 40%

‘The Mustang’

Unassuming and gently paced, set in a Nevada high-security prison, The Mustang looks to the redemption of a violent prisoner involved in a rehabilitation program training wild mustangs.

A loner, Roman (Matthias Schoenaerts – Rust & Bone, Red Sparrow) is reluctantly drawn into the program by Bruce Dern (Nebraska, The Hateful 8), a program that makes money through the auction of trained horses. Prison agendas and race violence occasionally come to the fore but Roman looks to focus as he finds himself with Marquis, a particularly difficult horse.

In minimising the violence, director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (TV’s The Act, American Crime Story) subverts the prison drama trope with an open, visual sensibility in her restrained storytelling, not disimiliar to that of recent Oscar winner Chloe Zhao (Nomadland, The Rider). Schoenearts, rarely off screen, is hypnotising.

Rating: 68%

‘Case Histories’ by Kate Atkinson

Cambridge, England and former policeman Jackson Brodie finds himself, as a private investigator, involved in three seemingly unconnected, unsolved family murders spread over several decades. A compelling hybrid chock full of complex family and personal dramas alongside the mysteries of the past, Case Histories, on its publication in 2004, was described by Stephen King as the best mystery of the decade.

1970 and the youngest of four sisters, three year old Olivia goes missing in the middle of the night. A massive search reveals nothing. Several decades later, teenage Laura is brutally murdered in her father’s office by a maniac’s apparently random attack. So shocked, witnesses only recall his yellow golfing jumper. The third, but just a few years after the first, is the lesser ‘mystery’ – a murder was committed, the man’s wife was imprisoned and the baby daughter adopted out. But there’s some connection, somewhere. By the nature of Atkinson’s novel, that’s only too apparent.

But, strangely for a mystery thriller, the answers (and all are provided) are almost secondary to the narrative of the surviving family members as Brodie discovers connections and uninvestigated leads. He also has his own family problems – and there’s more than a suspicion that someone is out to kill him. It’s the characters themselves involved in the process of discovery and reveal that draws the reader into Case Histories.

The eccentric surviving Land sisters and the morbidly obese lawyer, Theo Wyre (father of Laura), along with Brodie himself, are the main focus in Case Histories. But the novel is populated throughout by characters, past and present, who come and go as they intersect, engage, influence the narrative. Witty and perceptive, Atkinson enjoys many of her characters – the Rubenesque, flirtatious bit-actress Julia Land; the batty, elderly snob, Binky Rain, who demands the attention of Brodie in a continual loss of one of her many cats; Julia’s older sister, an uptight Amelia. Yet, for all, loneliness and a lack of closure, past or present, pervades.

Case Histories dips in and out of time frames as Brodie’s investigative narrative develops – and there are inevitable overlaps of events as different perspectives or reference points unfold. There can be a lot to hold on to – but the beauty of Atkinson is that she tells her story well. Not all the threads work (unconvinced by the threats to Brodie’s life) but overall Case Histories is a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging novel.


A speculative narrative based on the meeting between British palaeontologist Mary Anning and Charlotte Murchison, wife of geologist Roderick Murchison, Ammonite is a dour period romantic drama.

An understated, nuanced performance from Kate Winslet (The Reader, Steve Jobs) as the much ignored Anning in 1840s Britain provides the highlight of a grey, pallid film set in wintery Lyme Regis. Living with her mother (Gemma Jones – God’s Own Country, TV’s Spooks) and struggling to make a living, Anning finds the emotionally fragile Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn, Atonement) left in her care by the wealthy Murchison. An unforeseen relationship develops between the two.

Writer/director Francis Lee (God’s Own Country) continues to explore the attraction of opposites in his narratives but Ammonite, with its distancing of emotion, is austere and strangely unengaging.

Rating: 54%

‘The Matrix’

With it’s ground-breaking special effects back in 1999, The Matrix set new standards for the industry. Advances in technology have diluted the impact today, but 20 years ago slow motion bullets, ultra-fast fight sequences, morphing transformations were revolutionary.

Set in a dystopian Bladerunner-type world, corporate computer programmer Thomas A. Anderson (Keanu Reeves – John Wick, The Lake House) is, by night, the renowned hacker, Neo. Lured into the unknown by Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss – Love Hurts, Brain on Fire), he discovers a world of cyber-intelligence and deception beyond the imagination. Lead by legendary hacker Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne – John Wick, The Mule), a small team rebel against the machines whilst being hunted down by the ‘agents’ headed by Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving – The Lord of the Rings, The Dressmaker).

Created by the Wachowskis (Cloud Atlas, TV’s Sense8), it’s a fun yet dark ride as the rebels evade capture whilst Neo comes to terms with a very different concept to his known world. Taking the blue pill would have kept him in ignorance – but the red opens up a whole new experience.

Nominated for 4 Oscars in 2000, won all 4 for special effects, editing, sound and sound effects.

Rating: 64%

‘The Tomorrow War’

A former military man of today, Dan Forester (Chris Pratt – Jurassic World, Guardians of the Galaxy) is conscripted to travel into the future to help save mankind.

With the future world threatened by alien invading forces, technology allows time travel. Desperate forces return to the US to gain help in saving that future – only 30 years away and where as little as half a million or so people survive. Conscripted for seven days, on arrival Forester finds Yvonne Strahovski (TV’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Stateless) the unexpected military leader. On his return, Forester must change the course of action that leads to the future carnage.

A big, bold, derivative blockbuster. Lots of action, lots of special effects – but even the presence of J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Palm Springs) fails to instil much soul to precedings.

Rating: 47%