Film Review of the Week


Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story Of The Once And Future Heavyweight Champion Of The World (12A)

Review: A long and unwieldy title for director George Tillman Jr’s biographical drama about the Texas-born athlete, who hit hard inside and out of the boxing ring. Based on a script that Tillman Jr co-wrote with Frank Baldwin, the film charts the rise of George Foreman (Khris Davis) from humble origins and a troubled youth to his first taste of success with his fists at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games held in Mexico City.

Success against Joe Frazier and Ken Norton solidifies his standing as a champion until the widely publicised Rumble In The Jungle against Muhammad Ali (Sullivan Jones) where Foreman was knocked down for the first time in his career. He subsequently finds God and becomes a born-again Christian before disproving the naysayers with a late-career comeback to claim the heavyweight championship.

Reviews for Big George Foreman are embargoed until Thursday. Check back later in the week for our full review.

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry (12A)

Review: Time heals some wounds but it allows other to weep and fester. Academy Award winner Jim Broadbent embodies a sixty-something husband and father, who has been worn down to a lifeless husk by years of guilt and regret, in director Hettie Macdonald’s life-affirming, road movie. Adapted by Rachel Joyce from her best-selling novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry anoints an unlikely people’s champion, whose walk along the picturesque spine of Britain in honour of a terminally ill friend is a rare and precious beacon of hope in dark, troubling times.

The film retains the book’s episodic structure, introducing travelling companions and passing acquaintances to interact with the title character such as a well-to-do train passenger (Nick Sampson), who shares one half of a toasted teacake then unburdens his soul with tremulous candour. Some vignettes work better than others: a prolonged sequence with an East European doctor (Monika Gossmann), who can only find work in this country as a cleaner, is deeply touching while a refreshment pitstop in the company of a farmer’s wife (Claire Rushbrook) bluntly lays down a narrative marker. Broadbent’s twinkly-eyed dishevelment is consistently enthralling and he holds our gaze – often without saying a word – in throwaway interludes while Penelope Wilton’s abandoned spouse grapples with being “left behind” in all senses of those words.

By his own humble estimations, Harold Fry (Broadbent) is an unremarkable man, living quietly in a seaside town in south Devon with his wife Maureen (Wilton). Both bear deep emotional wounds from their son David (Earl Cave) and the marriage has visibly crumbled, reducing the couple’s connection to functional discourse over home-cooked meals. Out of the blue, Harold receives a letter from Berwick-upon-Tweed from his former work colleague, Queenie (Linda Bassett). “She’s in a hospice. She’s just saying goodbye,” he sombrely narrates to his wife.

He pens a few simple, heartfelt words but the handwritten scrawl feels inappropriate. A passing conversation about the power of faith, with a girl (Nina Singh) at the local petrol station, ignites Harold’s resolve and he spontaneously embarks on a physically gruelling 500-mile trek north to see Queenie in person. “You can’t save people with cancer unless you’re a surgeon,” despairs Maureen when Harold eventually telephones home but the spirited sexuagenarian persists, encountering unlikely travelling companions along the way including 18-year-old outcast Wilf (Daniel Frogson).

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry is a sure-footed celebration of the human condition, glimpsed through the wearied eyes of an everyman who becomes a reluctant folk hero and celebrity. Shot sequentially and on location across the UK, Macdonald’s film keeps the same plodding yet determined pace as the lead character, bookmarking Harold’s headline-grabbing odyssey with flashbacks to his deep shame. In his case, self-forgiveness will be the great healer.

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