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Posts Tagged ‘Johnny Flynn’

At top:  Carey Mulligan, Archie Barnes; below: Ralph Fiennes

“THE DIG” My rating: B- (Netflix)

112 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“The Dig” may be little more than motion picture comfort food…but right now comfort food is what we want.

Though inspired by real events — the discovery in 1939 of the Sutton Hoo site, a 6th-century Anglo-Saxon boat and priceless burial artifacts found  in an English pasture — this Masterpiece-ish effort from director Simon Stone and screenwriter Moira Buffini gets most of its momentum from the  melodrama (much of it made up) surrounding the enterprise.

I mean, excavating ancient treasures one tiny trowel scoop at a time isn’t exactly scintillating cinema. Bring on the heavy breathing.

Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) is a self-taught “excavator” (he wouldn’t presume to call himself an archaeologist) whose nose for buried wonders has been proven on various sites around his native Suffolk.  He’s crusty and cranky — in large part because his efforts are undervalued by the hoity-toity academic types with whom he must often work. (This was an era when archaeologists wore neckties and tweed jackets to dig.)

Now he’s been invited to the estate of widow Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan); she has an ancient mound out in the north forty she’d like to excavate. Basil would actually get to be the boss of the dig.

Along the way the childless fellow will become a father figure to Edith’s young son Robert (Archie Barnes) and befriend Edith’s cousin Rory (Johnny Flynn), who is brought in to help with some of the heavy lifting.  All this warm fuzzy stuff later will become important when it’s revealed that Edith has major health issues.

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Johnny Flynn, Jessie Buckley

“BEAST”  My rating: B- 

107 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A gnarly character study posing as a serial killer thriller, Michael Pearce’s “Beast” very nearly defies description.

On its most graspable narrative level it’s about a socially challenged young woman who falls hard for a local lad, then begins to suspect that he may be the murderer terrorizing the island on which they live.

But it’s also a wince-worthy portrayal of a destructive family dynamic, of sexual rapture after a life of chastity, and of a hermetically-sealed society driven off the rails by paranoia and panic.

Which is a lot to cram into one movie.  With his first feature writer/director Pearce sometimes struggles to keep it all in balance, but thanks to solid performances he delivers the modest goods.

Moll (Jessie Buckley) is such an outsider she seems a stranger even at her own birthday party.  With an explosion of unkempt red hair and a personality that seems always in retreat, she’s a perennial misfit.

Moll works occasionally as a tour guide — like filmmaker Pearce she lives on the Isle of Jersey, an outpost of stiff-upper-lip Britishness just off the hedonistic French coast — but mostly she’s  caretaker to her dimentia-riddled father. She’s more or less cast in that role by the rest of the family, especially her domineering and icily biting mother (Geraldine James), who treats her like a con on probation.

Which, in a sense, Moll is.  Fourteen years earlier she used a pair of scissors to skewer a bullying classmate. She still hasn’t lived down her reputation as violently unstable. (more…)

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