‘Mrs Harris Goes to Paris’

It’s the frocks that shine in this cute but shallow remake of an earlier tv movie as Christan Dior beckons a cockney cleaning lady.

A regular cleaner for Lady Dant (Anna Chancellor – Crush, TV’s The Split) gains few benefits (and late wage payments) except exposure to Dior haute couture. On learning the current beauty hanging in the wardrobe cost a staggering £500, Mrs Harris (Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread, Maleficent) is determined to purchase her own in time for the 1957 annual local town hall social. Scrimping and saving follows, supported by best friend, Violet (Ellen Thomas – The Love Punch, TV’s Eastenders). Ada gets to Paris eventually where, in spite of the snobbish Madame Colbert (Isabelle Huppert – Elle, The Piano Teacher), she gets her way – and changes the lives of those she comes into contact with as well as the future of the House of Dior itself.

Charm incarnate as directed by Anthony Fabian (Skin, Louder Than Words), Mrs Harris Goes to Paris is the saccharine-sweet embodiment of a fairy-tale as the good-natured Ada (a delightful Lesley Manville) tires of being invisible.

Nominated for 2023 Best Costume Oscar (Jenny Beaven).

Rating: 64%

‘Queen Charlotte – a Bridgerton Story’

Bridgerton 3: a six part season providing a Bridgerton backdrop to Queen Charlotte’s marriage to George III and the social ‘experiment’ instigated by Dowager Princess Augusta and a reluctant parliament.

There’s only a smattering of Bridgerton regulars in season three as the majority of the narrative focuses on the arrival in London of teenage Charlotte (India Amarteifio) and the early years of her marriage to George (Corey Mylchreest). Bethrothed to George against her wishes, Charlotte is not happy. As we already know, things are not quite right in the royal household. But Queen Charlotte – a Bridgerton Story is set several decades before seasons one and two. As the older Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) struggles to secure succession from her many adult children, so she is reminded of the early days of marriage.

With George’s mother, Dowager Princess Augusta (Michelle Fairley) herself struggling with parliament to ensure the royal succession, the arranged marriage looks good for all concerned. Assuming Charlotte to be a passive minor German royal of good child bearing stock, as a black woman she is also perfect for the ‘experiment’ of social integration. But Charlotte is anything but passive and soon challenges royal protocol and prerogative. Expect plenty of clashes between mother and daughter-in-law, husband and wife, king’s valet (Reynolds – Freddie Dennis) and queen’s valet, Brimsley (Sam Clemmett) as Charlotte discovers she’s actually in love with her husband.

It’s a fun ride, interspersed with that of the elevation of the Danburys to the aristocracy – the first titled black family. Lady Agatha Danbury (Arsema Thomas) and Queen Charlotte become firm friends but Lord Danbury’s early death throws a spanner into the works regarding succession.

For fans of Bridgerton (and there are many!) invested in the characters, season three provides historical backstories to the three senior women of the series – Queen Charlotte (a personal favourite), Lady Agatha Danbury (Adjoa Anode) and Lady Violet Ledger Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell). But to be honest, like the first two seasons, it could have been achieved so much quicker. There’s a little too much of a young sulky/angry Charlotte eating alone or regaling Brimsley. The result is a somewhat repetitive narrative. But it’s lightweight entertainment well told exceptionally well cast – and it throws in social commentary of contemporary issues (racism, homophobia, sex, republicanism) for good measure.

Rating: 58%

Bridgerton Season 1

Bridgerton Season 2

‘Dead Europe’

Dark, morose adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ seemingly unfilmable novel sees the death of a father in suburban Sydney result in a son’s return to the ancestral homeland in a remote part of Greece.

When Isaac (Ewen Leslie – The Daughter, The Nightingale) decides to take his father’s ashes back to Greece, he is acting against his mother’s wishes. But, in travelling to Europe, he discovers a schism in the extended family and, on a trip to his parent’s village, Isaac learns of his father’s dark secret and cursed history.

Neither parent had set foot in their homeland since leaving several decades earlier and slowly, Isaac begins to understand more. What he dismisses as superstition becomes something much darker and he is forced to confront the violent rumours of anti-Semitism of the past, the embedded bigotry in ‘old’ Europe and the nature of inherited guilt. As he searches for understanding, Isaac heads to Budapest and his estranged brother Nico (a deeply chilling Marton Csokas – The Last Duel, The Equalizer), a man involved in the gay-porn slave-trade.

It’s a bleak, twisted narrative from Tsiolkas and director Tony Krawitz (TV’s The Kettering Incident, Ready For This) that highlights the broken corruption of time before Isaac’s birth and their consequences in the present day. But the result a cold and emotionless feature.

Rating: 40%


A disappointing psychosexual thriller from the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock (Rear Window, Frenzy) as kleptomaniac Marnie finds herself in the thrall of one of her victims.

Marnie’s (Tippi Hedren – The Birds, I Heart Huckabees) kleptomania forces a constant reinvention of character and identity as she steals considerable amounts of money from her employers. But on revealing her for who she is, instead of turning her over to the police, businessman Mark Rutland (Sean Connery – Goldfinger, The Untouchables) marries her instead – determined to discover the root cause of her childhood trauma.

The character study of a thief and a liar is an odd call for Hitchcock but as alcoholism, prostitution and murder slip into the narrative, it all starts to become somewhat dreary and unconvincing.

Rating: 52%


‘A Most Wanted Man’

Based on John le Carré’s novel and set in Hamburg post 9/11, A Most Wanted Man is a superior anti-terrorism spy thriller as different agencies take an interest in an illegal Chechen Muslim migrant.

With new anti-terrorist agencies competing against traditional policing methods, head of unit Günther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman – Capote, Moneyball) needs to keep one step ahead, made the more urgent by the presence of a distrustful CIA agent, Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright – Wonder Woman, Moneyball). When Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin – Black Sea, Our Kind of Traitor), believed to be involved in some way in the laundering of money supporting terrorism, appears in Hamburg, all interested parties are placed on high alert.

The last serious film role before his untimely death, Hoffman gives a superbly subtle lead performance as he manipulates and cajoles behind the scenes, desperate to ensure Karpov’s safety in order to follow the money. With human rights lawyer Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams – Sherlock Holmes, Disobedience) in tow, an intricate jigsaw of a narrative unspools from director Anton Corbijn (Control, The American) – albeit a strangely cold, unemotional unspooling.

Rating: 68%


A two part adaptation of Andrew O’Hagan’s novel of the same name, Mayflies is a tale of longstanding friendship, nostalgia and death.

Glaswegians Tully and Jimmy have been best friends for more than 30 years – even distance with married, successful writer Jimmy (Martin Compston) living in London doing little to diminish that bond. But an unexpected phone call will see Jimmy’s life change. It’s Tully (Tony Curran) – a man who has defined him since those teenage years. They have remained close – but the request from his best mate will challenge that friendship.

Interweaving the present day with the weekend in Manchester and the legendary Festival of the Tenth Summer five 17 year-old Glaswegians attended, Mayflies deftly tells its tale. Not only has Tully terminal cancer but he refuses chemotherapy. Even long-term girlfriend Anna (Ashley Jensen) cannot change his determination. With limited time, friendship and love are pitched against each other as Anna feels excluded from decisions being made by the two men.

It’s heartfelt in its telling as Jimmy finds himself between a rock and hard place – supporting his best mate yet doing things he does not agree with, the result of which distances him from Anna. Wife Iona (Tracy Ifeachor) provides much needed stability.

Based on a true story and O’Hagan’s own personal experience, Mayflies is unassuming and compassionate, nuanced and tender – even if somewhat cliched and lacking a more fleshed-out backstory.

Rating: 64%

‘The Leftovers’ (Seasons 1-3)

When 2% of the world’s population inexplicably disappear, one small town in the State of New York attempts to continue as normal as possible.

14 October 2014 – the day of the Sudden Departure. A crying baby in a car, a mother pushing a shopping trolley, a driver of a car wending its way through town – gone. Accidents worldwide, families torn apart. No explanation. Mapleton, New York is no different.

Three years later, attempted normality is a stop/start affair. But its an unstable world lacking understanding or acceptance of events linked to the Sudden Departure. Religious/spiritual cults and groups have risen – including The Guilty Remnant where its members have given up talking, taken up smoking and are ambivalent about life and survival. The Mapleton sect is led by Patti Levin (Ann Dowd, pre-The Handmaid’s Tale).

Over the next three seasons, Mapleton Police Chief Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) and Nora Durst (Carrie Coon), a woman who lost her husband and two children, grapple with understanding and finding answers. Their journey takes them beyond small town upstate New York to Texas (season two) and, finally, Melbourne and the Australian outback.

Character-driven, The Leftovers is at its best when it explores the emotional scars of the Sudden Departure: Garvey struggles not only with the loss of his wife Laurie (Amy Brenneman) to The Guilty Remnant but also an angry teenage daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley) and absent son, Tom (Chris Zylka). Durst is constantly looking for answers, expecting her brother Reverend Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston) to provide.

It’s an intriguing if at times infuriating series that, as the narrative progresses, becomes increasingly obscure. From the rise of spiritual groups and cults to the Texan town of Jarden (now a place of pilgrimage that has resulted in access being seriously controlled) that remained unaffected by the Sudden Departure, The Leftovers flirts with religion and spirituality. But its ultimately a human interest story as characters come and go over the three seasons – with the Australian narrative drawing closer to the truth and the possibilities of finding and perhaps understanding what happened several years earlier. It’s undoubtedly weird as we experience the physical, emotional and spiritual responses of the Sudden Departure and its long-term ramifications but as a cerebral experience, The Leftovers over its 28 episodes has few competitors. But whether its ultimately satisfying is a different question.

Rating: 69%

‘The Guns of Navarone’

A derring-do blockbuster from 1961 with its all-star cast, the adaptation of Alistair MacLean’s best selling novel is a war time adventure as the Allies look to destroy a seemingly impregnable German fortress on the (fictional) Greek island of Navarone.

With the guns threatening Allied naval ships in the Aegean Sea, a plan to send in a crack team is developed, headed by Major Roy Franklin (Anthony Quayle – Lawrence of Arabia, Anne of a Thousand Days). But an early casualty on the island sees German-speaking Captain Keith Mallory (Gregory Peck – Spellbound, Roman Holiday) take command. Aided by Greek resistance members, the saboteurs need to overcome an extensive security network of German troops.

Inevitably for its time, emphasis was placed on the thrills and melodrama of the adventure rather than on character (or even credibility), but the frisson between Mallory and Greek general Andrea Stavros (Anthony Quinn – Zorba the Greek, Lust For Life) adds a level of personal tension to the narrative as the team fight to avoid capture and complete their mission.

As directed by J. Lee Thompson (Taras Bulba, Northwest Frontier), The Guns of Navarone became the second highest grossing film of 1961.

Nominated for 7 Oscars in 1962 including best film, director, adapted screenplay – won 1 for visual effects.

Rating: 61%

‘The Night Agent’ (Season 1)

A solid entertainment it may be with a gripping plotline but what seriously undermines this 10-part season (season two having just been announced) is the cliché-ridden and poorly written script delivered by some seriously miscast actors (Kari Matchett would struggle to be elected to a local primary school PTA never mind US president).

Foiling the bombing of a Washington subway train, low-level FBI agent Peter Sutherland’s (the hunky Gabriel Rosso) reward is the manning of a phone in the basement of the White House that never rings. But one night it does – a terrified Rose Larkin (Luciane Buchanan) has just witnessed the murder of her aunt and uncle and is being stalked by the assassin. So begins what initially appears to be a thrilling conspiracy theory adventure tale with ramifications all the way to the Oval House and Camp David.

Sadly, by late episode two/early episode three, the early promise is not lived up to. There’s little credibility to story or characterisation as Sutherland and Rose find themselves on the run not certain who to trust. Turns out the uncle and aunt were retired CIA agents asked specifically by the president to follow through a new operation that very few knew about. And it got them killed, with Rose the only witness.

No spoilers but as the narrative flits between our two unlikely heroes persued by assassins Dale and Ellen (the oddly likeable Phoenix Raei and Eve Harlow) and the security unit protecting the VP’s daughter, Maddie (Sarah Desjardins), headed by Agent Harrington (Fola Evans-Akingbola), at art school, so the believability of it all quickly unspools. But what is clear, in spite of wooden acting and clichéd dialogue, is that the intention behind the subway bombing has not gone away.

At times infuriating, at times unintentionally funny, at all times beyond episode one lacking in suspense, The Night Agent is an example of the templated espionage/conspiracy tale going wrong but which retains its interest in spite of it. But season two will have no appeal whatsoever.

Rating: 54%

‘Oslo, 31st August’

A gentle, sensitive unfolding of a recovering drug addict given a day’s leave from his rehab centre for a work interview.

Leaving the centre determined to make a go of it, over the course of the day and night, Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie – The Worst Person in the World, Bergman Island) attempts to reconnect with family and friends. Welcomed by some, but for others memories of his heroin addiction and lives destroyed are too fresh.

Directed by Joachim Trier (The Worst Person in the World, Reprise), Oslo 31st August is surprisingly empathic towards the educated but self-centred addict. With more than a hint of existential angst as Anders struggles with purpose, Trier looks to a lucid, inner cry of pain as the everyday of normalcy crowds around him.

Rating: 74%