Wednesday 6 March 2013

Dark Review - Franklyn

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Franklyn Review

By Casey Douglass

Written and Directed by : Gerald McMorrow
Starring : Eva Green , Ryan Phillippe , Sam Riley , Bernard Hill

Reality is a fickle thing. No sooner do you think that you have it pinned down, then something comes along that makes you question it, or some bright spark tells you that there are many realities, and everyone’s reality is unique to them. Well if that is true, in my reality, there is no place for line-dancing, Justin Bieber or four quid popcorn at the cinema. However, whatever reality you reside in, Franklyn is a film that plays with this kind of brain twisting issue with great skill.

The film is set in two superimposed realities, the more mundane and rainy high-rises of London, and the fantastic vistas of Meanwhile city. It follows the story of four people who wend their way through the winding streets, all suffering with great feelings of loss and sorrow, and all clinging to some manner of psychological crutch to help them live through the pain. The four are entwined from the very start of the film, the tangled threads of their solitary lives pulling tighter together as the film progresses.

One of the characters is firmly entrenched in Meanwhile city, Jonathan Preest (Phillipe). He walks the streets a persecuted man as he is the only inhabitant of Meanwhile city who has neither faith nor religion. Meanwhile is chock-full of all kinds of religions, from the familiar to the more extremely farcical. There is one based on the manual for a washing machine and another based on the noble art of the manicure. The Ministry (read as the people in charge) is forever on his tail as he tries to find and kill the head of a shadowy organisation called Duplex Ride, an individual that is ironically known as the Individual. This shows one of the many philosophical questions laced throughout the film. A lone guy with no religion in a city of faithful sheep, wanting to kill the one guy known as the Individual. The whole film is littered with clever thought-provoking devices like this. As far as character realisation, Phillipe plays Preest with suitable menace, his lines snarled out through a face (when not wearing Preest’s mask) that he manages to keep reasonably emotionless, yet still somehow conveying threat.

The other three characters are more firmly in London, although each has at least one aspect of their life that could be seen as a bit “Meanwhilish”.

Emilia (Green) is an art student who frequently orchestrates her own suicide attempts as a means to reach out for something, some kind of loving contact or resolution to her internal struggles. Eva Green plays her so well; she is a master of mercurial emotions sliding across her features, all somehow ending in a look of trapped sadness. Eva Green also plays another character in the film who is the mirror opposite of Emilia. This character is light and airy and all of the things Emilia is not.

Milo (Sam Riley) is suffering from rejection as he is jolted at the altar on the day of his wedding rehearsal. Cue lots of forlorn thousand yard stares and kicked puppy expressions from Riley as he plunges into the feelings aroused by everything falling away from him, taking sanctuary in his friends and the familiar.

The final character is Peter Essa (Hill), a man of religion and curator of a church. He is searching for his son, in more ways than one, and his crutch is his unwavering faith in God. Hill plays Essa very well, making him come across as humble and put upon by the world. He is also good at getting some of Essa’s naivety to shine through when dealing with some of the harsh realities of what is going on.
The stories of these four flirt with each other throughout the film, often visiting somewhere in Meanwhile city as a passenger with Preest, then some time later seeing the corresponding part of London with one of the others. In this way the film imparts meaning that otherwise might be lost. It does leave a fair few head scratching moments that aren’t explained though, which I like very much.

One scene sees Milo follow someone he thinks he knows into the basement level of a building. He hears children laughing and playing, yet when he walks into the room, it is full of old men playing dominoes. I am not sure what that means; maybe it was Meanwhile intruding on London. Who knows. There is also a strange cleaner who all three of the London-based characters talk to at one point or another. He seems to know what is going on, and his words prod them onto different paths. This isn’t really explained at the end of the film, you are just left to draw your own conclusions, which again, I quite like.

The threads of each tale come together quite spectacularly at the end of the film, where for good or ill, some things are resolved and others don’t really end very well.

The film itself is shot very well. Meanwhile city is a true metropolis with ram packed buildings reaching for the sky, large statues and figure heads looming over them in a sort of Gothic splendour. The characters are all shot with a slightly different colour palette which lends their scenes deeper emotion and novelty, and the score is suitably orchestral, varying from the grand theme of Meanwhile city to the quiet mundanity of urban London. Each element plays with the others to produce something that just feels very right.

It is a truly great film, one that hasn’t had nearly enough coverage in my opinion. I managed to miss this at the cinema, and it is rare to see it on Blu-ray or Dvd in shops nowadays. It is a little easier to purchase online but not by much. I think this is a great shame. I can only wonder if it sells any better in Meanwhile city.

Rating: 5/5


Also available to read here on Generic Movie Blog UK.