Before You Go (2002)
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The movie is a tragic comedy, or a funny tragedy. Basically, it's a deeply moving portrayal of a torn-apart family, the story of three wasted lives, but it's also an ode to the women, or to the strength that only women seem to be capable of.
Julie Walters, who was the star of Gilbert's hit movie "Educating Rita", delivers a stunning performance - probably one of the best performances in her entire career. Joanne Whalley is equally good in her portrayal of Mary, and you can't take your eyes off the gorgeous Patricia Hodge, who's playing their mother. The only bad performance, matter-of-factly, comes from Victoria Hamilton who's overacting in every scene she's in. She seemed to be resistant against Gilbert's masterful direction.
Debbie Wiseman's haunting, compelling score is flowing gently through the film, and the photography leaves you breathless. "Before You Go" was shot almost entirely on location on the Isle of Man (only very few shots were made at Twickenham Studios). Gilbert's sense for beautiful settings has always been unique - even in his three former based-on-stage-play movies ("Alfie", "Educating Rita", and "Shirley Valentine") you could perceive that.
Alas, the talents of John Hannah and Tom Wilkinson, both very fine actors, are basically wasted here. But after all, this is a woman's movie. And a great one.
man, were we wrong. this movie is hilarious, poignant, emotional, and delicate. julie walters shines in her role particularly, and despite not always being wonderful, the movie is definately very funny and good entertainment for those who like something a bit more challenging than 'dumb and dumber."
From Lewis Gilbert and featuring a great cast when I read the credits in the paper, I had reasonable hopes for this film. Sadly they were mostly dashed in a film that didn't seem to have a handle on what it actually wanted to do. The result of this is that the script is keen to embrace a quick joke or attempts at colourful characters but seems either unwilling or (more likely) unable to get to the heart of the matter and deliver and emotionally engaging film that is full or real hurt, real healing and real people. This leaves the film floating around in a way that is not bad but is certainly not any good meaning that I got more and more bored as the film went on, to the point where I left the room for five minutes but couldn't be bothered to pause the DVD.
The cast aren't able to do much without the help of writer or director. Walters flaps around but is nothing more than a flustered comedy character who doesn't actually produce laughs. Whalley is handed the greater responsibility and the stronger character but fails to do much with it; she and her mother share the strongest scenes but neither is that good and their scenes lack a real emotional hook. Hamilton is only ever annoying and feels like an easy cliché for the writers, once they had written the first two characters. The male support is so-so mainly because neither Hannah or Wilkinson are really given much to work with and are very much on the edges of the film.
Overall this was a disappointing film that didn't do anything that it had the potential to do. Not bad per se but it certainly isn't any good as it roundly fails to deliver on the promise of complex relationships. The cast offer much but aren't given anything to work with and only do OK. Not really worth a look to be honest.
An incredible experience and one that should not be missed, the scene where Julie Walters is starting to pack away her mother's clothes for the charity shop aided by her sisters is hilarious, and so true. People think that death is all about weeping and crying because that is the expected thing to do. It's not and my own personal experience tells me that.
The only thing I regret not happening is that one of the daughters didn't wipe the appalling makeup off their mother's corpse.
So when we discovered this movie version we were expecting a little gem of a film... however this was not the case! Not even the all star cast could save this film from sinking. It was truly disappointing - the acting was poor and the whole mood of the film was completely lack lustre. The directors interpretation completely downplayed all the humour in the play and the witty and bickering tension between the sisters. He turned the play into one long boring non-event.
I would highly recommend the play, but to anyone else performing this play I would give this film version a definite miss as you will only be left disappointed!
It shows how even a good director such as Lewis Gilbert (Shirley Valentine, Bond movies, Educating Rita. Alfie etc etc) can not make a good film from a bad script.
For Shelagh Stephenson (writer) it must be hurtful to read these sort of comments but if she is honest she will look back at the film and realise what a mess it is. These are early days yet for her but she would do well to remember that audiences need to like at least one of the cast in some way. I could not wait to see the back of them.
Before You Go is a beautifully observed piece that drops you into the middle of a seemingly dysfunctional and estranged family coping with the early days of bereavement. As the film progresses the sense of diversity in the family shrinks and you are left with the feeling that far from being dysfunctional, this family is really no different from just about every family you've ever met including your own! Lewis Gilbert has done a superb job of turning a mirror on normal family life that seems extreme at first though frighteningly familiar by the end.
The performances from the entire cast are superb, and no character is wasted. Walters, Whalley and Hamilton are wonderfully convincing as the three sisters, with Hannah and Wilkinson also on fine form. The power-play between the 3 siblings is very effective. Walters' portrayal of the 'professionally health conscious' eldest sister who crumbles into the Irish Whisky at the first sign of stress is both touching and often very funny. Though I've always felt sorry for Joanne Whalley in being overlooked for parts with real depth, this for me is her finest piece of work yet. Her fight between being a confident,successful doctor and yet deep fragility in her personal life (typified by her boyfriend, the frankly gloriously unlikeable Hannah as a celeb TV doc) is subtle and well reined-in.
Despite the backdrop of preparing for their mother's funeral, there are many moments of laugh-out-loud humour and levity, and the often fraught emotional scenes are handled with no sense of sentimentalism.
Highly entertaining way to spend an evening!
No wonder Britain doesn't have anything approaching a film industry if projects such as this are seen as worthy of funding. TV movies starring Kate Jackson or Lyndsay Wagner ('Please Don't Take My Owl - The Jodie Lee Boxheimer Story' etc. etc.) are eminently more watchable than this trite, aimless, middle class nonsense.
Britain has some of the greatest acting talents in the world. Is this really the best we can come up with for them?