This is a British film about a love triangle, as scripted by playwright Stephan Poliakoff. It has an unusual twist in that two of the triangle are brother and
sister. Their parents had divorced, and they were raised separately. In the
past he had mostly ignored her while taking high profile architectural jobs
all over Europe. When he returns to London and looks for a more socially
conscious job, she has married a wealthy man. For some reason, even though she
claims to be very happy, she seduces her brother. He becomes addicted to sex
with her. While she sees nothing wrong with incest and doesn't even consider
it cheating, having her brother in love with her clearly crosses a line and
she breaks off the relationship, but not before her husband finds out. So what
does the husband decide to do? Nothing.
Reviewers either find it a fascinating look at incest done perfectly, as
only the British can do, or an allegory of Thatcher's England. Possibly it
doesn't translate well into American, which could be the reason it doesn't
seem to have had a US release, and why I was unable to figure out what was
worthwhile about it. Clearly, incest is supposed to be an important
element, else it would have been a normal triangle romantic comedy, but I
couldn't detect any message about the incest, pro or con. In fact, the film
didn't seem to have any opinions about anything, including the motivations of
its characters. I never understood what turned her to adultery with her
brother, why he suddenly fell madly in lust with a sister he never had a lot
of use for, why he became addicted to sex with her, or why the husband choose
to forget it.
This is clearly a C based on critical and public response, but I am damned
if I can figure out why, except for great performances from Clive Owen as the
brother, Saskia Reeves as the sister, and Alan Rickman as her husband.
IMDb readers say 6.5, and it won numerous acting awards for Alan Rickman.
Scoop's notes: As it turns out, I watched this
movie today as well, and I agree completely with Tuna's points. I guess the
film is supposed to excel as a character study, but that's a difficult
position to support when the audience is kept in the dark about the
characters' motivations. To add to Tuna's list above, the script also fails to
explain why the following occurred:
1) The brother suddenly decided to change suddenly from from his career
as a corporate heavy hitter into a more socially conscious type. He says he
has, but we see no reason for it.
2) The brother's boss hired him to work in the socially conscious job,
at a small fraction of his usual salary. He had a bad interview. The two men
seemed to hate one another. Then we saw him working!
3) In another scene the brother and sister, lying in a country lane, are
almost run over by a truck. The truck driver never tries to swerve or slow
down to avoid them. He just honks the horn and barrels forward, as if he were
driving a train and there was nothing else he could do. What tha ...?
The script also makes all the symbols and parallels extremely obvious, so
obvious that the characters more or less explain them in dialogue:
Two men sit on a train together, talking while deploring the shoddy
construction along the route, and the conversation goes something like this:
The brother's boss: "I say, it's all sort of a metaphor for the failings of
the Thatcher administration, isn't it, old chap?"
The brother: "Ah, yes, old man, as well as the failings of my own
life, and your case of AIDS. In all cases a price is paid for a lack of
restraint, don't you know?"
The film does have its strengths. In addition to the performing positives
Tuna mentioned, it also has an evocative musical score and some superlative cinematography,
and the Rickman character is quite sympathetic (uncharacteristically for
Rickman), but neither those elements nor the
great actors are enough to compensate for the questionable character
motivations and the
other weaknesses of the lifeless, talky script.
I guess Tuna has the right score pegged at C, but you must understand that
it belongs to a "tragically doomed romance" genre, and you should avoid it
unless you have a taste for those.