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|Index||16 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Vanessa Redgrave gives a breathtaking performance in this
extremely well written and executed 'puzzle' movie. Many of the
initial reviews of this film in 1985 pointed out Redgrave's
great performance but failed to appreciate the overall quality
of Hare's direction and screenplay. This is a great modern film,
easily one of the best English language films of the 1980's.
Redgrave plays a single teacher who is shocked when a young
stranger enters her house and for no rational reason commits
suicide in front of her. As she, her best friends (well played
by Judi Dench and Ian Holm), a sympathetic yet slightly
obsessive detective and a young woman from the dead man's past
(a remarkable performance by Suzanna Hamilton) all struggle to
discover why the young man chose this woman to witness his
death, we are drawn into a beautifully nuanced philosophical
examination of the meaning of life in a time of negative social
change (Thatcher, Reagan and the spectre of Richard Nixon haunt
the film's characters). The examination of the young man
nihilistic choice to kill himself is reflected in the seemingly
growing alienation of the students in Redgrave's class and her
struggle to remain proactive as a teacher and a human being
despite personal tragedies and the political/social chaos of the
Thatcher years. A really captivating film that deserves a much
David Hare's quiet masterpiece conveys a genuine sense of alienation and
dislocation while covering a great deal of social and political ground. It
never loses sight of the human story, though; the loneliness of the
characters comes through in this startlingly intelligent drama which
slowly, like a flower under time lapse photography. We watch the bloom,
flowering and eventual withering of the characters' bodies and minds over
several decades of social discord, emotional disappointments and lost
It's stunning how Hare constructs such an involving character study under the framework of a conventional mystery. The inexplicable suicide of a young man draws the viewer in but it's the characters that involve the viewer in a greater mystery of the heart; how did these people get to this point in their lives and the history of a nation? Hare delicately examines the spiritual decay of late-20th century British society and how it impacts all generations, from the haunted post-war generation to the alienated, disconnected contemporary youth. Ultimately both groups are unable to reach out to each other, trapped in the inescapable malaise which spares no-one.
Vanessa Redgrave carries this film. In her eyes a dazzling spectrum of emotions infuse her scenes with joy, heartbreak, hopelessness, elation, and everything else in between. It's a brilliantly written film but no words are necessary to understand the despair. It's all in her eyes.
This is a great film. I just saw it for the first time. The comment above is completely wrong, however. I must set the record straight. The military scenes are not US soldiers, but rather a flashback for Vanessa Redgrave to a love lost. Royal Air Force, sir, in Malay. I whole-heartedly recommend the film. It has a great dramatic score. It also has tackles some real dark ideas about love and life. And it has a pace that doesn't exist anymore in many films, especially those with stars. Great performances from Ian Holm and Tom Wilkinson. Also a fine performance from a very young Joely Richardson (Vanessa Redgrave's daughter), who now stars on FX's Nip Tuck.
I've always loved this movie deeply. I just watched it again for
perhaps the sixth or seventh time. I fully agree with the Japanese
reviewer that the mention of Nixon is in sympathy, not ridicule. His
yearning to be loved by another, is very much meant as a parallel to
the young and older Redgrave character - as well as to the young man at
the dinner party.
David Hare has a wonderful scene here that is very similar to the very end of Plenty - when we see Joely Richardson writing in her diary in 1947 or so (think of Plenty's flashback to Meryl Streep in 1944 or 1945 speaking to the French farmer). The scenes might be full of bathos - but gee, I was overwhelmed both times.
This movie has much in common with other Hare ventures - movies like Strapless and Plenty, plays like Skylight and "Amy's View".
Hare's deep sympathies are with the romantic, the compassionate, the sensitive, the foolhardy, the collective-minded and the lost. He is antipathetic toward the self-sufficient, the ambitious, the laconic, the individualistic, the successful. I only partly share his sympathy and his antipathy but he makes me appreciate his attitudes through dramas he creates with real living characters.
Hare is sentimental in a nostalgic way, and can write wonderfully vivid, intelligent and lost protagonists. I think him a far more intelligent and better dramatist than such left-wingers as Mike Leigh or Ken Loach.
Many of us will see much of ourselves in his protagonists' loneliness, our wonder at mistaken hopes from our past, and sense of our own frailties and faults as we grow older.
Others speak of similarities to Pinter - I don't see them. Hare is more essentially romantic - even if he doesn't want to be - and I'd place him more with a Jacques Demy than with a Pinter-Mamet and their cold keen patterns of speech and behavior - though granted, he's more concerned with social and political background than Demy.
This is essentially a sad movie about one who was once happy - and her wonder and self-realization about another sadder than she.
This movie also started me off on two decades of strongly favoring Joely Richardson in any role - as I had always loved Ian Holm and Vanessa Redgrave. (I realized recently that among my several dozen favorite movies since the mid-1960s, about one quarter seem to have Ian Holm in them!).
If you like movies like Sunday Bloody Sunday, Butley, Plenty, A Kind of Loving, Quartermaine's Terms - and I do - you'll love Wetherby. I love this movie.
Besides qualms with the musical score, Wetherby has a killer script, intriguing editing, fantastic acting (Vanessa Redgrave is incredible), and a compelling idea driving the film. The echoes of film noir in the intense, high-contrast lighting and the starkness of the violence was perfect, especially when combined with naked silence. It is more than a story about a disturbed young man who shoots himself in front of an aging school teacher, Jean Travers (Redgrave). That comes early in the film. It is about the psychological consequences for Jean in her life and past, violently revealed through that shocking act. Life can never be normal again. Beneath even the most pleasant veneer lurks sadness, secrets, and dark sexuality.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I agree with the above comments almost entirely with the small exception of the importance that the 80's political scene played as any kind of thematic backdrop for the story.
On the contrary, the WWII era, if anything, was to be the backdrop for the contemporary happenings within the plot.
I think the above commenter is reading too much into the mention of Nixon in the film and possibly projecting his/her own political leanings - obviously anti-Thatcher/Reagan - onto those of David Hare, the writer and director. In terms of Richard Nixon, who is mentioned in an anecdotal way at the outset of the story, Ian Holmes' character appears to sympathize with the former president when discussing a rumour about Richard and Pat's early courtship. And Venessa Redgrave's character admits things would "liven up" in their pub were the former president to suddenly appear. These are not the words of people suffering from "negative progression" as stated in the above comment.
The characters played by Redgrave, Holmes, Dench, not to mention the key character of John Morgan, are all in one way or another involved in academia. (though Holmes plays a barrister.) They live quite comfortably and somewhat happily - within the confines of the plot and theme of loneliness, and aloneness of course. Redgrave's country home would be an enviable house to live in by anyone's standards. To say that this is an environment of "Thatcher chaos", as the above commenter states, is quite off the mark, I feel. The story is about normal people, somewhat lonely, in the upper middle class regions of society living their lives, waxing philosophy and working at their jobs, when a young stranger (youth is an important aspect of the theme) appears and upsets their lives with his dramatic actions. This stranger's "behaviour" does not make them question their lives, nor does it need to. (They are all confident in their own beliefs and values.) It simply, as Redgrave hints in the pub, livens up the place. Breaks up the monotony. Changes the daily talk, the daily complaints to something a bit more meaningful.
It is a common misconception to interpret films as a 100% reflection of the political climate of the time. This mistake has been repeated throughout the history of film criticism. One good example is the much repeated "red scare" explanation to Don Segal's Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Segal himself, claims the comparison is nonsense, and he was simply making a thriller. A scary monster movie with no monsters.
Overall, Wetherby is an excellent film with noteworthy performances by the cast. Stuart Wilson, particularly stands out among them. So, as I've stated, I think the above commenter made an almost perfect review of the film aside from the perceived importance of the political background at the time of shooting. Politics, like it or not, isn't always at the source.
An intriguing film which plays with time in an interesting way - it is
around the bizarre suicide of a young man, and scenes are shown in no
particular order, some from before the suicide and some from after. Often
it's hard to tell when chronologically a scene occurs. I like this kind of
narrative structure (cf. Pulp Fiction).
Towards the end of the film further scenes are interspersed from an apparently independent storyline about American soldiers during the war. When I saw the film (quite a few years ago) I couldn't work out how this related to the rest of the film at all. But it all seemed to make some kind of sense anyway.
Definitely worth a look.
A Pinteresque landscape of a movie. Not quite upper upper class, but upper middleclass, educated, intelligent people, endlessly talking, and trying to "relate". An opening scene that jarred me: Redgrave describing the "sly" look of a student in a literature class. I responded to it as a average thirteen year old nerd would. "Please don't call on me, AND PLEASE DON'T DISCUSS MY LOOKS IN THIS CLASS, OR IN ANY PUBLIC FORUM. YOU'RE KILLING, AND EMBARRASSING ME, TEACHER!" This is a young Judi Dench, and Ian Holm no longer twentysomething, entering middle age. I wonder if they could forsee the international superstardom that would be theirs in a few years? The Richardson and Redgrave clan turns out yet another great contribution to the British stage in the delightful Jolley, Vanessa's daughter in real(not reel) life, playing, you guessed it Vanessa as a young girl. If you had any doubt why I rate London over Hollywood watch this movie. Even if you think it's boring, and, "they talk with funny accents" you can see that these people are artists and are so good the "art" hardly shows. It's not supposed to.
"Wetherby" is an intriguing wake up call to each one of us to pay more
attention to life and the events surrounding it, before it gets too
late and we're forced to face the facts, to see the importance people
have in our lives in its quietest and small moments even though we
think they're not important or they can't affect us. Because they can
and life has its ways of showing how. What David Hare is saying here is
that the things that matter and will change you will happen when you're
distracted or least expecting it. With luck, you'll know how to react.
In the suburb of Wetherby a casual dinner took place having as participants some upper class members, an enjoyable evening in the house of teacher Jean Travers (Vanessa Redgrave). The following day one of the guests, the mysterious John Morgan (Tim McInnerny) returns there, exposes that he wasn't known of any of the attendees - to Jean's surprise who thinks this was impossible - and then he kills himself in front of her. Such fact triggers down alternate ways: a police detective (Stuart Wilson) becomes obsessed with this strange case and decides to get some clues on why Morgan acted this way; Karen, a colleague of Morgan (Suzanne Hamilton) visits Jean informing her about the very few she knew about the young man, but she's just mysterious as he was, doesn't reveal much about herself; a minor impact on the lives of Mrs. Travers friends (Ian Holm, Judi Dench and Tom Wilkinson); and Jean remembrances of her past with her involvement with a soldier, a life changing experience. The latter, although it doesn't seem and strangely played out to confuse audiences, is related with the suicide despite decades apart. But this in a psychological way and this movie is perfect when it comes to those terms.
The good points: pay attention to the details and you'll love how most of it was carefully constructed but be warned, there's no easy answers and sometimes there's no answers at all, we're left to take our own conclusions about the character's actions. Redgrave and Wilson were excellent, very insightful and very believable when it comes to present a genuine state of shock, his trying to find reasonable explanations and her after seeing the tragedy (although the movie downplayed and hid her reaction after the fact, awkwardly cutting to her past without further notice). The veteran actors in the supporting roles are outstanding, creating memorable moments. The young McInnerny was an on/off kind of acting. I believed him in almost everything he did, he sure causes an impression on you with this intelligent, disturbed, apparently peaceful guy but in some scenes he was too weird, almost in a laughable way. It's a puzzling and provocative study on the human perceptions and why they're more important to some (John Morgan) than to others (almost all the other characters).
The bad points: this was close in being a great work but so close that is a little saddening to present the following upsetting remarks. I can't complain about the story and the deep connections between different characters, times and space we have to form to understand the whole, however I felt Hare shouldn't be the one to direct this or at least he should tone down a little easier on the technical aspects. A more technical director would benefit substantially from a script like this. The fore-mentioned transition between events is an example on how to not present a story. The time leap between the two events was really odd to see, it looked like seeing another film strangely cut to later get back where it stopped, and even experienced viewers will find this problematic. Of course, not as much as the loud and melodramatic soundtrack which is completely misplaced and creates feelings and sensations that aren't there. For both cases, it was all a matter of editing problem, the way things are put together doesn't work for too long. The girl who played Karen was awful, shouting and overreacting at all times. The screenplay doesn't make of her a sympathetic character, often making her an enigma that doesn't add much to the mystery to be solved.
Those with patience, time and eyes to see will enjoy it to the maximum and even forgive its problems. This isn't hollow, this isn't pretentious, it's just hides its points very deep like a treasure to be sought. The reward will come for those who work and think a little harder. 9/10
Brilliant layered film. Love the cinematography and the score - so moving - this is a "cinematic' film - it takes you to another place. I love the moody setting. I read David Hare wanted to show how ordinary lives can have operatic emotions and he captures this with the score. Love the flashbacks and the way the puzzle and mystery slowly forms. All of the different themes and characters add up to a potent emotional cocktail and comment on life, growing up, growing old, dreams and expectations, the search for meaning in our lives. "A girl ran away today". 'Good luck to her". "Yes good luck". I love it when Vanessa Redgraves character feels as if the young guy's spirit is pulling her down and the detective tells her she needs to fight. It seems her broken heart and inner melancholy allowed her to connect to him and his sense of disillusionment with the modern world.
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