Mothering Sunday (14, 104 minutes) 

Verdict: Ineffable English, stunningly beautiful


Cry Macho (12.104min)

Verdict: Mexican-American turkey  


It felt like an honor to have been English when I watched Mothering Sunday at Cannes Film Festival this past year.

As I sat next to her, a German critic told me that she was bored all the time. Perhaps there was even a strong expletive.

Yes, it was so good. But it is so ineffably English, a kind of cinematic version of a ploughman’s lunch at a Chilterns pub, that it is, indeed, hard to imagine anyone not from Britain truly grasping all its nuances.

An adaptation of Graham Swift’s 2016 novel, Eva Husson’s film unfolds, mostly, on an unseasonally warm Mother’s Day in 1924. Odessa Young plays Jane Fairchild charmingly as Jane, a maid in the Home Counties Home of the Nivens, Colin Firth (and Olivia Colman), who still have the Great War’s long shadow. As their friends the Sheringhams they lost their sons to the Western Front.

Watching Mothering Sunday at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, it felt like a genuine privilege to be English. Pictured: Paul, played by Josh O'Connor

It felt like an honor to have been English when I watched Mothering Sunday at Cannes Film Festival this past year. Pictured: Paul played by Josh O’Connor

Firth is a perfect example of the gentle, reserved, upper-class Englishman act. In a sense, Colman’s casting is more clever. Colman is the cleverer casting because we have become so accustomed to her toothy smile, one that can lead ships through fog, it’s almost disorienting to be able to no longer see it.

In the past, Mrs Niven had a lot fun, it turns out. But now she radiates only misery and irascibility, and her daily trigger is her mild husband’s attempted bonhomie. ‘Godfrey, for goodness sake!’ she snaps, her fuse shortened by grief.

It was the Jazz Age. In movies so often, 1920s roar. Here, they weep.

Meanwhile, and here’s the nub of the story, Jane is having a passionate affair, necessarily clandestine because of its affront to class boundaries, with the Sheringhams’ only surviving son, Paul (Josh O’Connor). The law student is about to marry the imperious girl of the Hobdays, his third group of friends.

On Mothering Sunday, when nice Mr Niven gives Jane the day off, she cycles over to the Sheringhams’ home for a tryst with Paul before he has to motor down to Henley to join his parents, along with the Nivens and Hobdays, for a picnic lunch and stilted conversation on the banks of the Thames.

Jane Fairchild, charmingly played by the Australian actress Odessa Young (pictured), is a maid at the handsome Home Counties home of the Nivens (Colin Firth and Olivia Colman), over whom the long shadow of the Great War still falls

Jane Fairchild is charmingly played (pictured) by Odessa Young, an Australian actress. Jane Fairchild works as a maid in the Home Counties home for the Nivens (Colin Firth & Olivia Colman), who still have the shadows of the Great War.

With a cameo for Glenda Jackson as the elderly Jane Fairchild, Alice Birch’s beautifully crafted screenplay moves us from that 1924 day back and forth through time.

These skips forward and back gradually fill in the story; it’s like doing a really pleasurable jigsaw. But the spiritual heart of the film is when Jane, left alone at the Sheringhams’ home after Paul has reluctantly gone to join his own kind, languidly wanders naked through the big house, further defying all the social rules she is already breaking by being his secret lover.

There’s a lot of nudity in this film, including a lingering full-frontal of O’Connor that I wouldn’t mention except that his lovely performance is strikingly reminiscent of his Prince Charles in The Crown — a privileged young man in love with the wrong woman — so it’s rather startling to get such an eyeful of, as it were, the crown jewels.

Morgan Kibby’s gorgeous score — all plinky piano and plaintive strings — also deserves acknowledgment. It’s as perfect as every other thing.

But here’s the thing: Kibby is American and Husson, the director, is French. So maybe I’m wrong to assume that to really get Mothering Sunday you need to come from the land of hope and glory. Joseph Losey from Wisconsin directed the movie that most reminded of it. That’s The Go-Between (1971), another frightfully English period tale, adapted from a novel, of unseasonal sunshine and forbidden love.

Clint Eastwood (91) directs, produces, stars in and is responsible for Cry Macho.

In my admiration of the great man I will never give up, cowboy hats off for his continued productivity. He looks as if he is in his prime. It looks almost like Help the Aged sneeze when a voluptuous Mexican siren attempts to seduce him.

From the sublime to the preposterous, Cry Macho is the latest movie from 91-year-old Clint Eastwood (pictured), who directs, produces and stars

Clint Eastwood is a 91-year old director, producer, and star of Cry Macho.

This story, in general, is not much more plausible. Eastwood is a retired rodeo rider and is dispatched south by his former employer who has a teenage son wandering aimlessly in Mexico City. The boy’s unlikely mission is to return to the U.S. and Eastwood, along with Macho (a playful cockerel), make their way through misadventure-strewn streets.

While the setting is quite nice, acting and writing seem to be as weak as their premise. Never mind Macho the cockerel; I’m sorry to report that old Clint has delivered a scrawny turkey.

Musicians man has the birthday blues

“Tick Tick…Boom” (PG, 115 minutes) 

Verdict: It is showtime 


Tick Tick will not make you fall in love with musical theatre unless it is. You can find it here. Boom! is akin to standing just inside the door of a fabulous party to which you haven’t been invited.

Slickly directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s a semi-autobiographical musical set in New York City and written for the stage by the late Jonathan Larson (with a screenplay by Steven Levenson), who most famously conceived the long-running Broadway hit Rent. Tragically, Larson didn’t live to reap the rewards. Larson, who was just 35 years old, died unexpectedly in 1996.

He attempts to become a major composer. However, his 30th Birthday is hard on his heart. Meanwhile his love life with Alexandra Shipp (his girlfriend) suffers and the HIV-positive friends he surrounds are discovered.

Andrew Garfield is a great Larson actor. There are many wonderful moments in the film, including a scene where inspiration strikes underwater while Garfield swims at his local swimming pool. But, as I say, if you’re not addicted to the world of musical theatre, it might not be for you.

Andrew Garfield (pictured, with Shipp) gives a thunderous performance as Larson, a real tour de force, and there are some marvellous moments, notably a scene in which inspiration strikes while he is underwater at his local pool

Andrew Garfield (pictured with Shipp), gives a powerful performance as Larson. It is a true tour de force and contains some amazing moments. One of these scenes, in which inspiration strikes when he is submerged at the local pool, is a highlight.

Nor, if sport’s not your thing, would I recommend two documentaries, Dettori (★★★✩✩) and Arsene Wenger: Invincible (★★★★✩).

But if it is, take a look at them both, because each tells the compelling story of an extraordinary high-achiever — jockey Frankie Dettori and Wenger, the former Arsenal manager — both of whom came to England and rose to the top, but whose ferocious will to win can be traced directly back to a fiercely strict, impossible-to-please father.

Wenger, we learn in Gabriel Clarke’s excellent film, so hated losing that he was sometimes physically sick after an Arsenal defeat (although in 2003-04 the team were unbeaten in the league, hence ‘invincible’).

Among those paying tribute are his bitterest rival, former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who explains eloquently how Wenger’s arrival made him raise his own game: ‘When you see someone coming up behind you, you accelerate.’

The Frenchman was able to take Fergie’s all-conquering strength for a short time. This is fascinating.

  • Tick, Tick. . Boom! .Boom! Arsene Younger: Invincible will be in cinemas starting today, as well as on digital platforms beginning November 22. Dettori will be in cinemas, as well as on digital platforms starting Monday.