The Sapphires is a partial hit but The Alps has a mountain to climb

FILM
THE SAPPHIRES
Cert 12A | By Alex Dymoke
***

Soul music and Chris O’Dowd’s face must be two of the most inherently likeable things on the planet. Given that both feature prominently in Australian movie The Sapphires, it is perhaps unsurprising that the film has landed in the UK to an enthusiastic chorus of well-wishing.

It follows four big-voiced aboriginal girls, who depart from the redneck Australian backwater that they call home and set off on a global adventure.

While The Sapphires is undeniably good-hearted, it possesses a number of flaws, not least of which being that O’Dowd’s character is leant on rather heavily as the sole provider of comic relief. About a quarter of the way through, the film settles into a repetitive pattern, alternating between upbeat performances of classic soul numbers and tedious histrionic arguments between the girls. These flaws prevent The Sapphires from being the feel-good hit that it is being hailed as.

FILM
THE ALPS
Cert 12A | By Naomi Mdudu
**

Contrary to what the name would suggest, this film has nothing to do with the Alps. It’s a fitting reflection of the plot, which hinges on things that aren’t what they seem. Be warned: as much as this Greek drama is, to some extent, a far cry from the formulaic nature of many Hollywood movies, it isn’t one for the impatient.

Alps is a company, which offers a unique service to bereaved people. It’s staff impersonate the client’s deceased loved ones. The story is played out through the eyes of one of its staff, an unnamed nurse, who ends up craving to assume the role of one of the characters she plays.

The film flicks in and out of these increasingly bizarre scenarios without any real thread running through them. Even by the end of the film, you know little more about the characters that you did when you were first introduced to them.

FILM
MY BROTHER THE DEVIL
Cert 12A | By Naomi Mdudu
****

After hearing about the plot of Sally El Hosani’s new film My Brother the Devil, I wasn’t particularly thrilled. The gang crime-focused narrative and all-too-familiar East London council estate backdrop, didn’t exactly fill me with confidence. I mean, do we really need yet another myopic portrayal of young black men in a storyline that doesn’t steer too far from “boy joins gang, boy tries to leave gang, boy gets brutally killed?”

But, while the first part of the film features all the familiar themes – drugs, violence, sex – this is only one strand of the narrative. The story is told through the eyes of two British-born Egyptian brothers. Instead of going down the murder-spree route, which seems to characterise most “urban” films, crime takes a back seat to the exploration of their relationship. It’s in these more subtle moments that the screenplay comes to life. The refreshing take on a tired genre may go some way towards repairing the damage done by Noel Clarke’s melodramatic Kidulthood and its ilk.

FILM
PEOPLE LIKE US
Cert 12A | By Alex Dymoke
**

If only tear-ducts were obedient to critical judgment. Few things are more irritating than being emotionally manipulated by a bad film. Like unscrupulous fast food companies, People Like Us cashes in on the universal human weakness for sugary junk.

Sam (Chris Pine) is a New York salesman who is such a workaholic that he doesn’t bat an eyelid when he gets a call from his LA-based mother (Michelle Pfeiffer), telling him that his father has died. He flies across America to the funeral, only to find he has been left nothing but a record collection. Nothing, that is, except for $150,000 in a bag, and instructions to deliver it to an address in LA, which leaves him with a heart-rending choice between taking the cash and doing the right thing. The beginning of this film promises much. However, after two hours of wading through sentimental gloop, you’ll resent the emotive impact of the denouement.

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