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Other people's heartbreak
on 28 June 2011
Amazon have done a good job recommending this film - the reviews persuaded me to buy it. In a way it is the faults and flaws in the film that are heartbreaking. It is structured to death, with a plot like a Daily Telegraph crossword puzzle, some of the clues intriguingly clever, some patently obvious, others arbitrary. And there are all those black squares which are total blanks. Like many English films it makes room for - or is filled in by - too many vignette scenes and performances, for example the vulgar landlady who breaks into a meeting 'of passionate intensity' between the sisters to demand her rent for the room, then the imperious upper-class glance that dismisses her.
Bonham Carter has the role of sex-kitten marriage breaker. She does her best, as always, but it is a constricting theatrical part. And perhaps that is the basic flaw in the film: the balance between theatricality and naturalism snaps and all these carefully assembled performances fall apart. The predictable deaths are predictably false, the social and the sex scenes perfunctory, and one of the key 'heartbreak' moments, when the proper sister's child (product of marital rape) scampers across the common chasing a kite, exactly as Bonham Carter had earlier scampered... Yes, a nice film, worth renting, but the lost bewildered fatalism of Lehmann's story is lost in mechanical detail, a dropped plate. Sad. Though I still think Bonham Carter a great actress, however frustrated, just see it before you buy it.