By Anne Brodie
Joe Wright’s adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac isn’t to be dismissed. Its lyricism and Peter Dinklage’s exceptional performance as Cyrano create wonder and a powerful sense of magic. Set in some timeless time in a beautiful mountain village, Cyrano loves Rosamund (Haley Bennett) but hasn’t let her know; he feels unworthy of her. She loves Christian (Calvin Harrison, Jr.) who is unable to fully express himself and his feelings for her. He asks Cyrano to write Rosamund love letters on his behalf, after all, he’s a richly verbal type, brilliant and skilled with words, and thankfully, swords. Rosamund’s sweet temperament and kinship with the villagers make her everyone’s favourite. One day she sends for Cyrano and asks him to write letters of response to Christian’s outpourings of love. He’s heartbroken but carries on the ruse working both sides. His letters to her are very, shall we say, moving. They have an erotic effect on her. Soon they meet and Christian is absolutely tongue-tied, not the romantic wordsmith he’s come to believe he is. Enter the third man – Ben Mendelsohn’s De Guiche who threatens to marry Rosamund forcibly, if need be, he will have her tonight! This sets the scene for a rousing final chapter rich in wit, humour, irony, sensuality, the baser emotions and the ideal ones leading to a heartrending conclusion. This critic felt happily enveloped by the spell it wove, this fairy tale of otherworldliness and its incredibly gorgeous, timeless score, look and vibe. Dinklage is phenomenal, as always, he and reprises their roles from the Connecticut-based Goodspeed Musicals production of Cyrano. The film has been pushed twice so hang on for a release date and don’t forget about it, a real treat!
Crave offers a sweet nostalgic look back at one of the leading children’s film franchises in the doc Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts. The cast gathers in small groups back at the lavishly kitted school for wizards to reminisce about ten heady years together, riding the Harry Potter wave that swept the world and changed their lives. Principals Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are taller, all grown up and settled in their respective acting careers. They share fun memories from behind-the-scenes, including their auditions, working with the various directors over the life of the franchise, their favourite characters and actors (Robbie Coltrane), and sharing secrets they haven’t until now. Find out who Emma was crushing on, the influence of the great on the cast – Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith, Ian McKellan, Gary Oldman and memorialise those who are no longer here. The spirit of joy, connection and renewed intimacy is warmly bracing and good for the soul, heart-filling, ideal holiday viewing spiced with tears, hugs and love.
Munich: The Edge of War now on Netflix follows the friendship between two fellow Oxford students, one who became a British civil servant, the other a Nazi functionary in the months leading up to World War II. In 1938 Hugh Legat (George MacKay) joined a contingent led by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to Munich. Their purpose was to gain an audience with Adolf Hitler whose popularity and ideals were taking a tight grip on Germany, and convince him not to invade Czechoslovakia, and launch a war. Hugh meets his former classmate Paul von Hartmann (Jannis Niewöhner) whom he visited some years back when Paul was staunchly pro-Hitler. He’s surprised to learn Paul’s secretly using his government position as an interpreter to bring Hitler down. He has a pistol and a damning document that lays out Hitler’s plan to not only invade countries to give the German people “living room”, but to wipe out Jews. The plan is to get the document to political leaders to prepare for war. Their delicate mission is clearly a viper’s nest of danger but their shared ideology pushes them onward. Meanwhile, Chamberlain (Jeremy Irons) has a strategy to persuade Hitler to stand down that, at first glance seems extraordinarily empty, but there is an endgame. He states “If I am made to look at a fool, it’s fine, a small price to pay” which changes the lens through which history has judged him. Director Christian Schwochow creates edge-of-your-seat tension, based on Robert Harris’ novel. In theatres and on Netflix Jan. 21.
New on Sundance Now is the suspenseful British psychological thriller Close to Me starring Connie Nielsen as a beautiful woman with a seemingly perfect life – they always pay for the privilege, don’t they? The series opens with an overhead shot of Neilsen as Jo lying splayed on the ground floor, bloodied and still, having fallen or been pushed down the central staircase. Jo’s put into an induced coma to recover and on awakening realises she’s lost at least a year of memory and sustained physical and mental injuries. She raises alarms with her husband (Christopher Eccleston), wondering if he pushed her. Was he having an affair? Was she? Jo hears strange noises while alone in their isolated glasshouse, but doctors say she’s confused and on medication. She can’t get into her computer, and she imagines someone threw her mobile into the sea and her dog is missing. Someone has scrawled “Help me” on the living room wall. As she heals, she keeps a calendar of memories on that same wall, with help from family, to give her a better picture of the missing year. she has violent thoughts and wonders if she is dangerous. She no longer trusts her husband who is asking her to sign a legal agreement, and with help from a friend, begins to piece together events leading to the fall. And just like that, memories start flooding back and she learns there’s a lot more at stake than she could have dreamed. It’s escapist, easily digestible fun that reminds us to look beneath the surface of what we see and believe.
In writer-director Fran Kranz’ Mass, seasoned actors Ann Dowd, Martha Plimpton, Jason Isaacs and Reed Birney put in incredibly naked performances, compressed and powerful, two hours of human interaction following a tragedy ripped from tragic headlines. They meet in a church space to grapple with an awful event and try to make sense of it so they can carry on. Gail (Plimpton) and Jay (Jason Isaacs) arrive first and nervously await Linda (Dowd) and Richard (Birney). They’re taken to a room where church staff has been careful to place a conspicuous box of tissues, a little food and water. The parents get by staff that walk on eggshells and sit down to … what? What happens to a person when their son shoots up his school and kills a child? And the grieving parents? It’s folly to make presumptions, as we watch them try to understand, agonize, cry out, pull back and grasp at straws to continue the hard conversation. In the hands of these great character actors, it feels real and startling and painfully human. Now On Demand.