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Far From The Madding Crowd: exquisite and superbly crafted

By on April 30, 2015

Carey Mulligan is mesmerising in Far From the Madding Crowd, a “perfect new interpretation of this classic work”, writes Ruth Allen.

The topical and memorable Samba is a witty romantic comedy and just as timely is the inspiring and uplifting The Good Lie …

(Run time: 119mins; Director: Thomas Vinterberg; Cast: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge)
Synopsis: The story of independent, beautiful and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene, who attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer captivated by her fetching wilfulness; Frank Troy, a handsome and reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor. This timeless story of Bathsheba’s choices and passions explores the nature of relationships and love – as well as the human ability to overcome hardships through resilience and perseverance.

Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt, 2012; Festen 1998 – a founding ‘brother’ of dogme95) brings us a visually stunning and superbly crafted new version of the 19thcentury novel which gave Thomas Hardy his first real taste of literary success.

An excellent script by David Nicholl is faithful to the themes of the original, with all the drama, reversals of fortune and cruel twists of fate played out in a rural English idyll, as three very different men vie for the attentions of the truly rounded, independent heroine, Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan).

Once again Carey Mulligan mesmerises as a modern young woman trying to retain her independence and carve her way in the world. Matthias Schoenaerts is perfect as the patient, loyal and ever faithful Gabriel Oak, with Michael Sheen as Boldwood the middle aged, wealthy landowner who tragically becomes infatuated with Bathsheba and Tom Sturridge as the feckless Sergeant Troy.

Luscious cinematography from Charlotte Bruus Christensen paints a beautiful picture of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex, reflecting the seasonal changes and imparting pathetic fallacy to the drama.

Exquisite costumes from Janet Patterson and a beautiful score from Craig Armstrong complete the mix. Vinterberg’s film feels like the perfect new interpretation of this classic work about the fatefulness of human life set against the relentless authority of nature and the seasons.

SAMBA (15)
(Run time: 120mins; Director: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano; Cast: Omar Sy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Tahar Rahim)
Synopsis: Migrant Samba Cissé travelled from his native Senegal to France 10 years ago. He slogged away as a dishwasher in a hotel and is about to get a catering qualification. When he discovers there is something wrong with his paperwork he finds himself being transported to a detention centre where he will remain until he can provide the required documents. When immigration officer Alice takes an interest in Samba’s case, the two find themselves fighting together to keep him in the country.

Directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano – who made Intouchables (2011), one of France’s most popular films ever – team up again with the charismatic actor Omar Sy to bring us this highly topical tale based on the successful novel Samba pour la France by Delphine Coulin, who co-scripted the film.

Omar Sy plays the eponymous Samba, who is detected without official papers after a random police check and sent to a detention centre. Samba has been living on his wits for the previous 10 years in Paris, sending money home to his mother in Senegal, and hoping to gain a catering qualification.

In the detention centre he meets volunteer Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg) a former executive on sabbatical because she is suffering from burnout. She joins him in his fight to stay in France. This is a witty, unsentimental, romantic comedy which paints what feels like an authentic picture of life for illegal immigrants in France as they scrabble for risky, poorly paid work.

Samba meets and has various scrapes with another immigrant Wilson (Tahar Rahim – playing a comic role for a change) during his attempts to avoid deportation. Once again good ensemble acting and a wonderful score from Ludovico Einaudi (who also did the soundtrack for Intouchables) make this a memorable film.

(Run time: 110mins; Director: Philippe Falardeau ; Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal, Kuoth Weil, Corey Stoll)
Synopsis: When civil war breaks out in Sudan millions of people are left without homes and families. From these refugees, a small group – the so-called Lost Boys – are given a chance to resettle in America, where their encounter with an employment agency counsellor changes all of their lives forever.

This timely film from director Philippe Falardeau (Monsieur Lazhar, 2011; Congorama, 2006) movingly recounts the story of the child refugees who, after escaping a massacre by militiamen in their rural village in South Sudan, begin a 1000 mile trek to safety.

The first part of the film harrowingly depicts their struggle as a microcosm of the lives of over 20,000 displaced and/or orphaned children who became known as ‘The Lost Boys’ of the Second Sudanese Civil War. Stunning cinematography from Ronald Plante contrasts the beautiful African scenery with the horror of the killing in Sudan.

When Mamere (Arnold Oceng) and his companions Jeremiah, Paul and Abital reach the Kakuma refugee camp they find they have been separated from his older brother Theo who it transpires has sacrificed himself to the rebels to save his fellows.

The second part of the film deals with the culture clash when, as adults, they win a lottery to resettle in the USA, where they meet Carrie Davis (Reece Witherspoon) an employment counsellor, who helps them transform their lives.

The Good Lie is a sensitive film which avoids all the stereotypical clichés and is elevated to another level by the amazing performances from the ensemble of Sudanese actors – themselves former refugees and child soldiers.  The end result is an inspiring, uplifting and superbly crafted film which highlights serious issues but is never devoid of humour or humanity.

Main Pic, Far from the Madding Crowd and Bbelow, Samba and The Good Lie

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