Nice long first review below so I don’t feel compelled to say too much here this time but to mention how surprised I was that it worked so well a second time. The ending here is probably seen as particularly corny to some, and when I first saw it though it really overwhelmed me I wasn’t sure if it’d just caught me at the right time. I think the reason it looks like it’s actually going to work for me any number of times I see it now comes down to two things: the line that precedes it from the boy, “But this is my story, and this is where I want it to end …”, and all that water. The movie comes down to a child’s hope and water: how beautifully simple can you get? I should also repeat the fact that I should really watch this movie before and after anything featuring James Nesbitt – I’ve really grown to dislike him recently, mostly over the casting of him in the BBC’s “Passion” as Pontius Pilate … but he really is quite amazing here.
September 6th, 2007:
Absolute genius. A quintessential children’s movie (okay, it’s a 12A in the UK, I don’t agree; it gets a little scary towards the end but this so fits the bill alongside old children’s classics that I think it should almost be a U) and a quintessential British movie – addressing poverty, class, religion, the ethnic minorities, all those lovely things – in one. Not to mention the fact it remains at all turns, absolutely, a Danny Boyle film. I’ve yet to see Sunshine, but on the evidence up to now, I’ve got to say, surely Boyle is one of the most consistently brilliant directors not only in the UK but in the whole field.
The basic story is that a few weeks before the UK switches from Pound Sterling to Euros, a young boy discovers a bag stuffed with hundreds of thousands (not millions, but hey, what’s the difference to a child?) and must therefore decide what to do with it before it becomes worthless. If movies like Brewster’s Millions and Blank Cheque come to mind with that set-up, you couldn’t be further off. While all around him seem obsessed to the point of stereotype with football, the kid in question here has this obsession with Catholic Saints reminiscent of Winona Ryder’s character in Mermaids … he even thinks he can see and talk to them at times (leading to hilarious moments when one of said Saints drops into his cardboard house by the railway for a sneaky joint, lol; or the Geordie Saint Peter telling him, “For Christ’s sake don’t tick them little boxes,” as the kid attempts to send the money to various charities). Against all odds, this kid wants to do good with this money, and is amazed at how hard that is.
I was hooked on this from the moment the Danny Elfman-esque opening music (incidentally, wonderful score all the way through by John Murphy) – coupled with some CGI of a new housing estate being constructed, a bit reminiscent of a Barratt commercial actually, but bizarrely beautiful – struck up, and it only got better from there. It never took the directions I thought it would. At times it’s similar to child fantasy movies like Lawn Dogs or Paperhouse; at times, the influence of much older, earthier things like Whistle Down the Wind is more evident (I have in mind in particular the scenes where the kid and his brother are introducing their school peers to the money; and the long line of homeless people following them to Pizza Hut).
It’s a mesmerising, beautiful movie with much to say about childhood and the state of the world, perhaps best captured best in the abandoned way the hero says to his dad at the end, “Everyone gets robbed at Christmas, dad.” Incidentally, major kudos has to be given to James Nesbitt here. Though I think he’s really talented, he normally manages to do something to annoy me; here, he not only didn’t do that, but he manages to cover up his seemingly uncoverable accent; Daisy Donovan is a delight, too, I had no idea she could act. The kids, it has to be said, aren’t fantastic; but it’s clear that Boyle has almost used their weaknesses to his advantage; again, it’s almost like watching a much older production. This is really a gem, and possible Boyle’s best movie to date.