In post-war London Viv Pearce, seeing married spiv Reggie, runs a dating bureau with Helen Giniver, who lives with her older lover, authoress Julia Standing. Viv's younger brother Duncan, a... See full summary »
In post-war London Viv Pearce, seeing married spiv Reggie, runs a dating bureau with Helen Giniver, who lives with her older lover, authoress Julia Standing. Viv's younger brother Duncan, a tormented homosexual, has been in prison and is sought out by his - straight - ex-cellmate Robert Fraser, who served time as a conscientious objector and is now concerned for the boy's welfare. Viv encounters Kay Langrish, a wealthy, reclusive butch lesbian and for both women this evokes memories of 1944 when Kay was an heroic ambulance driver and Helen was Kay's girlfriend, before Kay introduced her to her ex-lover Julia. Viv had an illegal abortion, funded by Reggie, and, after she needed hospital treatment, Kay saved her from prosecution by claiming she was a married woman who had miscarried. Three years earlier Kay and Julia are still an item and Viv meets unhappily married soldier Reggie on a train. Kay pulls Helen from the wreckage of a bombed house whilst we learn why Duncan was in prison ... Written by
don @ minifie-1
If you go to the cinema, midway through a film, you watch the second half first, don't you? So you see how the characters end up, in the story. What happened to turn them into the people they became? It's like a riddle you have to solve.
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Adapting a book to the screen is tough. You need to be brutal, cutting away entire plot lines, even characters to serve your purpose. I haven't read The Night Watch but this adaptation shows all the signs of a too-reverential approach. That's a shame because it gets a lot of things right, a few breathtakingly so. In those moments, it's unlike anything I've seen. You could pitch it as Aimee and Jaguar meets The End of the Affair but at its best it's better than either of those films. It's Anna Maxwell Martin's portrayal of Kay Langrish that takes it to those heights. Claire Foy turns in a wonderful performance but she has less to work with. Unfortunately, The Night Watch is also saddled with at least one too many plot strands and a stunning miscalculation in thinking that Bath and or Bristol could double for wartime London. I know it's hard to find much of the capital that hasn't been tarted up since 1945 but west country stone and Georgian porticos, along with hills that put Lisbon to shame, don't fool anyone. And there are other misjudgments. There's a technical device which is used three times. You'll know it when you see it. The first use is amazing, emotionally spot on. The second is just confusing and the third downright clunky. As is some of the dialogue. "War changes people... and not necessarily for the better." In a book, that leadenly expositional second phrase may be necessary. In a film, it's amateurish. With a firmer, more demanding hand, this might have stood as a genuinely great work. Even as is, it's better than almost anything else you'll find on British or American TV so enjoy, despite the flaws. You won't regret it.
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