Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Franklyn (2009)

Movie quotes:

"If a god is willing to prevent evil, but not able, then he is not omnipotent. If he is able, but not willing, then he must be malevolent. If he is neither able or willing then why call him a god?"
- Jonathan Preest

At a glance:
Writer/director Gerald McMorrow creates a beautiful mystery, told across parallel universes, where the stories of four seemingly unconnected strangers intersect

Our review (with MAJOR SPOILERS):
Somewhere in a sci-fi future, the dark, architecturally-complex city of Meanwhile possesses laws that require every citizen to join a religion, even if that religion is as obscure as the Seventh Day Manicurists, or has a preacher that reads care instructions from clothes tags as if they were Holy Scriptures. In this madness, one masked man, Jonathan Preest (Ryan Phillippe) has defied the government and belongs to no church but his own. Preest is imprisoned for his ‘crime’; after four years, he is granted freedom if he will kill The Individual (Bernard Hill), a particularly dangerous religious leader who, years earlier, was responsible for the death of a girl that Preest was contracted to protect. Running parallel to this universe, in present-day London, are our other protagonists. Emilia (Eva Green), is a troubled young woman who makes monthly failed attempts at suicide as part of her art project. During her previous art project, when she was following strangers with a video camera, she tracked Milo (Sam Riley), a young man whose fiancĂ©e recently dumped him on the eve of their wedding. Milo, for his part, has seen glimpses of Emilia in a red wig and believes she is his childhood sweetheart, Sally. Unfortunately, Sally was not a real person, but an imaginary friend that Milo created when his father died. This becomes even stranger when he meets this Sally, and she remembers him.

There is also an older man who is searching for his son, David. Deep into the film, we discover that David is really Preest, and that the girl whom Preest failed to protect was his sister Sarah. As impossible as it may seem, all of these people’s stories will intersect and be resolved.

Franklyn requires heightened levels of concentration and observation to avoid losing interest or missing telltale clues and plot points. In my case, this was not an issue; the acting and the lost-souls love story that is at its core held my attention, as did the beautiful and often poetic production design. Franklyn is the type of film that polarizes viewers and reviewers. This often means that the director was trying to do something ambitious, inscrutable, and original that did not connect with the majority Typically, I rate these types of films at the high end of the scale, with extra points awarded for the effort of creating something that has not been done hundreds of times before. So if some parts do not work (like the occasional cumbersome prose), that’s okay; we can appreciate the many scenes that do.

Rating:  3 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Franklyn is wonky and self-defeating: there are lots of gauche moments. Still, it’s entertaining, and commendable for its strangeness."
- Edward Porter (Sunday Times [UK])

"If ambition and flair were the only hallmarks of a five-star film then Franklyn would be top of the class."
- Allan Hunter (Daily Express)

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