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Posts Tagged ‘tom courtenay’

Gemma Arterton, Lucas Bond

“SUMMERLAND” My rating: B (Available July 31 on Amazon Prime and various cable/streaming services)

99 minutes | MPAA rating:PG

One of literature’s more enduring themes — that of a misanthrope redeemed by the love of a child (Silas Marner, anyone?) — gets a clever reworking in Jessica Swale’s “Summerland.”

In her quaint cottage on the Dover seashore, Alice (Gemma Arterton) has pretty much managed to avoid the  unpleasantries of the world war taking place on the other side of the channel. A middle-aged recluse regarded by the local kids as some sort of witch (they stuff dirt and sticks into her mail slot), Alice immerses herself in her scholarly study of British folklore. She just wants to be left alone.

So she’s more than a little miffed when told that like many other residents of this rural area, she is expected to take in a child evacuated from London and its nightly air raids. Frank (Lucas Bond) is already traumatized at being separated from his soldier father and government-worker mother; things aren’t improved when Alice gives him a chilly reception and immediately launches an effort with the local schoolmaster (the venerable Tom Courtenay) to have the youngster reassigned to another home.

Swale’s screenplay follows one familiar trajectory, but manages to change things up with a couple of novel twists.

The cranky woman and the innocent child eventually will warm to one another.  This goes without saying.

Frank’s relationship with a another displaced child (Dixie Egerickx) feels fairly predictable as well.

But in a series of flashbacks we see young Alice  having an affair — her only sexual encounter, apparently — with a fellow university student, Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Their idyllic flapper-era romance ends when Vera opts for conventional marriage and children over a mixed-race lesbian relationship (which, in  late 1920s Britain, was a far dicier premise than it is today).

This soul-shattering disappointment explains Alice’s intervening years of surly solitude. Having been badly burned, she’s not keen on forming relationships of any depth.  Which makes the presence of curly-haired Frank all the more problematic.

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Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay

Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay

“45 YEARS” My rating: B+

95 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Everyone has a few secrets. Usually it’s a case of no harm, no foul.

But for the couple at the center of Andrew Haigh’s “45 Years,” long-kept secrets threaten a decades-old marriage.

Kate (Oscar nominated Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) are retirees living in a bucolic and green corner of England. They’ve never had children, doting instead on a series of dogs. They are comfortable and reasonably happy.

One day the postman brings a letter that upends their placid existence. Geoff learns that melting glaciers have revealed the body of his long-ago girlfriend, who was hiking Europe with him when she fell to her death in an alpine crevasse. Now, more than 50 years later, the authorities want him to come settle matters.

Kate knew of this shadowy woman only vaguely. Geoff has never talked much about her. But now she learns that way back then Geoff identified himself to the authorities as the dead woman’s husband. Actually they never married, but as far as the Swiss police are concerned, he’s still next of kin.

This revelation gnaws at Kate as she goes about arranging a party to celebrate her and Geoff’s 45th wedding anniversary (Geoff was ill for their 40th, so this is to make up for lost time).

But even as she must deal with renting  a banquet hall, selecting music for the dance, and creating a menu, she’s gnawed by doubts.

Just how well does she know this man who has shared her life?

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Billy Connolly, Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay and Pauline Collins

Billy Connolly, Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay and Pauline Collins

“QUARTET” My rating: B- (Opens January 25 at the Tivoli and Glenwood Arts)

98 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“Quartet,” the movies’ latest exercise in geriaxploitation, is about old folks living in a not-for-profit British community for retired musicians.

It’s  “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” with operatic solos instead of sitars and tablas.

It’s also the feature film directing debut of actor Dustin Hoffman, who doesn’t appear on the screen but proves himself more than capable of calling the shots behind the camera. “Quartet” isn’t astoundingly cinematic, but Hoffman clearly knows how to work with actors.

Of course it helps to have an A-list cast of graying Brit thesps on hand.

Set in a formerly grand English country house which now has been divided up into apartments, Ronald Harwood’s screenplay (based on his stage play) centers on the arrival of Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), a once world-famous soprano whose shaky finances have forced her to give up her London townhouse. Now she’s come to Beecham House to live among her aged peers.

Not that she’s looking forward to it. Group living is a real comedown for the imperious Jean, who spends the first few days taking her meals in her room and listening to old LPs of her performances.  There’s a touch of the imperious Lady Violet Crawley (of “Downton Abbey,” natch) in Smith’s performance, but also a welcome vulnerability.

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