on 17 March 2010
It's often a sign of high praise to say a movie has haunted your thoughts days after you saw it. We value art that moves us and makes us think, possibly even changing the way we view the world from that point on.
Well, I'm still thinking about Ruby Blue days after seeing it, but the only change it might bring about in my life is to give up trying to see all of Bob Hoskins' movies. Let me explain.
Bob has been in some of my favourite movies (Mona Lisa, Long Good Friday, Last Orders, Mermaids) and I genuinely admire his apparent willingness to work on low budget British movies, most of which I guess would not get made were he not to lend his name to them. He's even been given awards for this aspect of his latter career. Some of them are brilliant, 24/7 being a stand out example, but Ruby Blue doesn't work.
For a start, it was done on a shoestring and, presumably as a direct result, largely improvised. This lack of rehearsal and tight direction means Bob delivers snippets of several of his previous performances (the mean guy, the geezer, the goofy falling in love guy, etc) which are too broad for the transitions the plot requires in such a compressed time frame.
I say plot, plots is more appropriate. This movie seems to be trying to make up for a limited budget by having so many characters and plot lines that it never gives any of them due time to for development. I was left - and here's why I'm still thinking about it days later - stitching together a longer, possibly better movie in my head.
The ideas and characters deserve longer, probably a four or six part TV mini series. In that sort of time frame each character could evolve at a more believable pace, not flick from one stereotype behaviour to another. We see Hoskins go from full-time carer to depressed widower, child hater to enlightened social carer, estranged father to re-invigorated pigeon fancier, recluse to eager lover and a few others, including lapsed alcoholic... in 90 minutes! Frankly, he's acting his socks off to make it even half way believable.
The multiple plots have one thing in common: an increasing predictability. There is the missing child, a child murder, child abuse, wrongly suspected paedophile, elderly bereavement, alcoholism and depression, sex change revelation, bad parenting, bullying, antisocial behaviour by teenagers, pigeon racing... It's all too much in too short a time.
There are some genuinely great bits; the actress playing little girl is very good, as is the abusive, "chav" mother. Hoskins plays well in scenes with love interest, Josiane Balasko, a famous French Actress who is clearly a class act and, like Hoskins, giving over her time for a small project she had faith in based on the script.
Overall, Ruby Blue feels like a missed opportunity. It's easy to say a longer running time and more money spent could have smoothed out the bumps and delivered something genuinely moving and funny, but it is true. It might also have enabled the director to get across a few pertinent points about modern society. That was clearly the intention, but we all know where you get to following a road paved with those.