T2 Trainspotting

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

T2 Trainspotting

T2 Trainspotting hands movie critics a genuine dilemma. As a follow-up to a very popular first version of twenty years ago, it makes us wonder about the makeup of the audiences that loved T1 back then. Since I didn’t see that one, I can’t indulge in comparisons of the two, so here goes a shot at T2 which is already drawing appreciative audiences. I am not among them.

So there I was at T2 meeting four thoroughly unlikable characters. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) has returned to a shabby part of Scotland where he and three friends grew up together and came unglued after Renton ripped off his buddies. Sick Boy Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) is a cocaine addict who runs an escort business with his partner Veronica (Anjela Nedyalkora). Spud (Ewen Bremmer) is a physical and emotional wreck of a man who loves to write. A furious Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is serving a long jail term.

All of them are drug addicts. Most speak in a Scottish accent so heavy that they are unintelligible to other English speakers. You will have a tough time understanding more than a few words in every sentence. That alone renders the plot impossible to understand. We are dealing with unintelligible, middle-aged, drug addicted crooks. But wait; there’s more. Every few minutes – even when they are being civil to each other – they burst into physical violence as they beat their buddies with anything that’s at hand. Anything sharp or hard – a loose toilet, a shovel, is swung and knocks the victim down in a bloody mess. Even opening an ice box door is a violent act. These were friends just a minute ago and will be again. If you figure that one out, please let me know.

As Begbie breaks out of jail, he thrills to the news that Renton, who cheated him out of big bucks, is back in town and vows revenge. So in addition to the rage that erupts when any two of the four get together, we watch the rotten Begbie find joy in hanging an old pal from a barn beam. Spoken words are lost not just in the heavy accents but also in the loud, howling, snarls that envelop all conversation. Their snarls aren’t the dumb but simple repetitive four letter words we Americans use but base line scatological ugliness. Our swearing sounds like golden peace offerings by comparison.

But there is a good side. Director Danny Boyle has used a master’s touch to make this violence into a visual feast. Filmed in dark, sharp tones and set to a loud score, everything moves at a racer’s pace. We’re too scared to be bored. And so here comes the old question of what kinds of people will fill the theaters for T2. Perhaps some kind soul who appreciates unintelligible dialogue, drug addiction, betrayal, physical violence, and general cruelty will call me to explain those joys.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : T2 Trainspotting
Word Count : 492
Running time: 1:54
Rating : R
Date : 2 April 2017


This review was posted on April 2, 2017, in Drama.

The Sense of an Ending

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

The Sense of an Ending

Audiences for The Sense of an Ending are likely to be older people who can grasp the emotional wallop of an old man exploring his past. Young people with just a blink of a past are thinking about present and future, not about the ups and downs that formed them. What we have here is an upper middle-aged man digging hard to understand a major sadness in his early life. Prepare to be confused as you follow a slew of actors from school years through life to early old age. They give us six characters at different ages in shifting times. It’s worth the effort.

Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent/Billy Howie) is the proprietor of a small camera store that sells old Leicas. Divorced, he is alone most of the time. Tony has learned of the death of his closest school friend and is searching for the diary he now knows Adrian (Joe Alwyn) left behind when he died. When he learns it is in the hands of his old love Veronica (Charlotte Rampling/Freya Mavor), Tony sets out to see her again to claim the diary and reconstruct his past.

That’s a simplistic summary of a complicated story. Though there are approximately five main characters, they are played at different ages by different actors. So jump to ten actors, old and young, who appear, vanish, and reappear without help from the filmmakers in identifying who is who. It gets easier the more we hear their names, harder when Jim’s comments switch from reality to memory. And that is the last negative thing you will hear from me about this otherwise appealing movie.

As Jim summons his memories, listen closely for what his personality and time have done to his past. We watch Jim and his ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walter) reunite to help guide their daughter Susie (Michelle Dockery) through single mother childbirth. We watch him as a young man lose young Veronica (Freya Mavor), the love of his life, to his best friend Adrian.

As Jim finds each of the women who played major roles in his earlier life, he must test his own memory against theirs, and we in the audience have the job of sorting the true facts of the mystery he has constructed in his head.

What’s important to know is that every one of these actors gives a fine, often subtle performance. Add to that the impact of Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling as long ago lovers who meet in much older age and you will see an amazing mixture of restraint, resentment, and love tamped down. These two can deliver moods that are both subtle and overpowering in the same moment. Their brief time onscreen together is a gift of quiet talent.

While the young actors deliver the remembered moments, their elder selves give us those memories wrapped in the reflections of many decades. Quite suddenly, we in the audience realize we are doing the same.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : The Sense of an Ending
Word Count : 495
Running time: 1:48
Rating : PG-13
Date : March 26, 2017


This review was posted on March 25, 2017, in Drama.