The British and Irish film industries, studded with huge talents that have entranced us in the past, need to take a deep breath and realize they have slipped into the habit of gentle comedies filled with cliches.

THE CLOSER YOU GET

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


We need to call a moratorium on small, charming British and Irish movies. So many good ones have crossed the ocean in the last few years that British and Irish filmmakers have begun to play a game of seeing just how closely they can imitate the last one without being plagiarists. These days, they are snuggling up to The Full Monty and Waking Ned Devine.

And so you know that in The Closer You Get, you will see a small, utterly appealing village nestled by the sea, with a beautiful absence of trees to break the roll of the landscape. The men will love their pubs, their pints, and women in general. The women will be background figures who run the show.

This time round, it is Kieran, the local butcher, who drives the thinnest of plots by putting a notice in the personals of an American newspaper inviting American women to "the annual St. Martha's day spring dance with a view thereafter to marriage--ideal age range between twenty and twenty-one." While we are waiting for them to arrive-don't hold your breath-we watch life unfold at the pace of a soft breeze.

The women, sick of the collective roving eye of the men, invite a gang of Spanish sailors to the fabled dance. Since the event is attached to nothing before or after, we get to know neither the sailors nor the women. Kieran, who dyes his hair platinum in anticipation of the Americans' arrival, is supposed to be charming and isn't. When the humorless Father Hubert (Risteard Cooper) lures his flock to church with a showing of The Ten Commandments and it turns out instead to be Bo Derek's 10, we are clearly meant to be enchanted.

So slowly that you can hardly believe it is happening, the men begin to look with new insight at the women in their town. Kieren finds Siobhan. The sheep farmer finds Kate. Ollie finds the postmistress. But because we don't know any of them, we don't much care.

The real reward in this movie is the ravishing landscape that has nothing in it but the sunwashed side of a house, an isolated rock, and the greens and blues of grass and sea. It's an uninterrupted, glorious thing to look at, and at times quite enough for those of us who love such things. But it doesn't sustain a comedy.

The British and Irish film industries, studded with huge talents that have entranced us in the past, need to take a deep breath and realize they have slipped into the habit of gentle comedies filled with cliches. We can never give up on an industry that has given us The Boxer, In the Name of the Father, and an enduring image of the suffering of Irish mothers, but we can skip a few of the gentle comedies while they try to recreate the success of The Full Monty.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 493
Studio : Fox Searchlight Pictures
Rating : PG-13
Running time : 1h32m


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