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Helena Bonham Carter,
Kristin Scott Thomas
A dreamer who aspires to human flight is assigned public service after one of his attempts off a public building. This leads him to meeting a young woman, who is dying of motor neuron disease. The strong-willed woman admits her wish to be de-flowered before her death. The man, struggling to maintain his relationship with his girl friend, declines but offers to help pay for a gigolo to do the deed. The following events play off the inherent comedy and drama of the circumstances. Written by
John Sacksteder <email@example.com>
Despite its low-key release in this country, and its apparent disregard in other countries (the 'R' rating in the States can't have helped - honestly, just because HBC uses the C-word!), this is actually a fine piece of work. The sentimentality does occasionally threaten to choke it, but it's overcome by the playing of the two leads.
It's easy to win plaudits just because you're playing a physical or mental cripple (Daniel Day-Lewis, Geoffrey Rush, Dustin Hoffman, etc.), and Helena Bonham-Carter may not quite capture the physical degradation of MND, but her vocal stretching and ruthless emotional drive compensate entirely. In fact, almost all her performance is conducted through her eyes (and what eyes!). This is an intelligent turn from an actress who is rapidly undoing her English Rose reputation, and emerging as a figure of some stature. Awards must surely follow, though not, alas, for this fine performance.
Branagh, one feels, has never quite given his best on film (except possibly 'Hamlet', and there his playing was diluted by the large cast). Here, though, he tops his other appearances, playing to the hilt a self-loathing, unstable, ultimately lovable guy with a subtlety he hasn't always displayed, and exhibiting both intelligence and depth. In short, we believe him, just as much as we could NOT believe him as Frankenstein, as the priest in 'The Proposition', as the lawyer in 'The Gingerbread Man', even as Andrew in 'Peter's Friends'. This is surely his finest performance yet - so why could he not produce the goods much earlier?
As a film, it looks more like a television offering, and without its stars it probably wouldn't amount to very much. But it's been a pleasure to see this pair perform their socks off like this, and I eagerly await more from them (though not 'Love's Labour's Lost'...). 8 out of 10, but Branagh and HBC get 10 out of 10.
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