Set at the end of the '60s, as Swaziland is about to receive independence from Great Britain, the film follows the young Ralph Compton, at 12, through his parents' traumatic separation, ...
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Set at the end of the '60s, as Swaziland is about to receive independence from Great Britain, the film follows the young Ralph Compton, at 12, through his parents' traumatic separation, till he's 14. It is written and directed by Richard E Grant, and based on true events from Richard E Grant's childhood. Written by
Saw Wah-Wah at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this is a really wonderful film. The story is told from the point of view of Ralph, a child witnessing the breakdown of his parent's marriage and dealing with his father's alcoholism and hasty remarriage. Both the colonial life and the adult relationships are seen, unflatteringly, from Ralph's perspective, and this could easily have been just another caricature of colonial decadence and the end of empire. In fact, despite the sombre story, it has humour and warmth as well as emotional impact. It also looks stunning: it is hard to believe this is Richard Grant's first film. All the cast give strong performances, even if most of them are hardly playing against type: Celia Imry could probably do the "upper-class bitch" and Julie Walters the "blowsy but good-hearted neighbour" in their sleep: but the core relationship between Ralph and his father Harry, played by Gabriel Byrne, is just electrifying. Byrne is totally convincing as the dedicated colonial administrator whose unresolved feelings for his first wife and fears for his future after independence drive him to alcoholism and nearly wreck his second marriage (to the also excellent Emily Watson). According to the press the film has yet to find a distributor: let's hope it is quickly picked up this is ten times better than any of this summer's blockbusters, and deserves to be seen.
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