Film Review of the Week


Bob Marley: One Love (12A)

Review: In the song Three Little Birds, taken from the 1977 album Exodus, Bob Marley and the Wailers repeat the soothing musical refrain: “Don’t worry about a thing/’Cause every little thing gonna be alright.” The calming sentiment certainly applies to director Reinaldo Marcus Green’s reverential biopic, which immortalises the creation of the group’s ninth studio LP on Island Records in broad strokes, a few months after a failed assassination attempt on Marley at his house.

Produced in partnership with the singer’s family, Bob Marley: One Love is too safe, polite and conventional for a trailblazing, defiant artist, who sought to heal the deep political divisions of his homeland and begins this film by insisting that his beloved reggae music feeds a revolution that no guns can stop. Audiences don’t need to worry about London-born Kingsley Ben-Adir in the title role. He vanishes completely behind the cascading dreadlocks of Robert Nesta Marley including a thick musical patois that remains consistently closer to Kingston, Jamaica, than Kingston upon Thames.

Concert sequences are electrifying. Ben-Adir learnt to sing and play the guitar to authentically inhabit the charismatic showman during recreated performances of I Shot The Sheriff, Jamming, and Redemption Song. Lashana Lynch is underserved as Marley’s strong-willed wife Rita, who doesn’t appreciate him doubting her loyalty and in one fiery exchange bites back: “I have to be a wife and a soldier.” It would be nice if Green’s picture could harness some of that fighting spirit.

In late 1976, Jamaica is dangerously divided across political lines and Marley vows to quell the violence by performing at the Smile Jamaica Concert. “Think about cancelling the show for everybody’s safety,” a trusted confidant urges Marley, and, two days before the high-profile gig, gun men break into the singer’s home, shooting Marley, his wife Rita (Lynch) and manager Don Taylor (Anthony Welsh).

Everyone survives – Rita’s dreadlocks save her life – and Marley moves to London with his entourage to begin work on Exodus under Island Records supremo Chris Blackwell (James Norton). “I wanna make a record that can shake up the place,” vows Marley and he seeks refuge in the Rastafari faith and memories of his humble beginnings in the village of Nine Mile in the St Ann countryside via the violent slums of Trench Town on the edge of Kingston.

Punctuated by archive footage, Bob Marley: One Love is a linear tour of the fertile period in the singer’s life leading to his diagnosis with a rare form of skin cancer. Ben-Adir is radiant and he catalyses simmering screen chemistry with Lynch. Their largely harmonious partnership compensates for the emotionally diluted screenwriting that always has one ear tuned to delivering the greatest hits comfortably under two hours. Logically, less is less.

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Madame Web (12A)

Review: If you were blessed with the ability to glimpse the future, sufficiently in advance to have a positive impact, would you actively create ripples through time – with potentially devastating consequences – or resignedly trudge down a predestined path? Dakota Johnson chooses wilful intervention as the bewildered heroine of director SJ Clarkson’s muscular origin story torn from the pages of Marvel Comics. Adapted for the screen by Clarkson and three co-writers, Madame Web tumbles through a Spider-Verse already inhabited by numerous spandex-clad Peter Parkers, voracious alien symbiote Venom and vampiric doctor Morbius. Aaron Taylor-Johnson will join the fold in late August as merciless warrior Kraven The Hunter.

The reluctant heroine of Clarkson’s solidly entertaining chase thriller is bound to the Parker family’s tragic mythology by chance, living in 2003 New York where production design doffs a nostalgic cap to the distinctive blue and yellow livery of Blockbuster Video and a billboard for Beyonce’s debut studio album Dangerously In Love on a parking garage wall. The soundtrack boogies to female-powered pop and rock courtesy of Britney Spears, Mis-Teeq, Meredith Brooks, 4 Non Blondes and The Cranberries as frenetic visuals ping pong between reality and the title character’s imaginings, allowing us to share her dizziness and confusion. Action sequences rely on digital effects but technical wizardry doesn’t completely outmuscle the sisterly solidarity.

Thirty years after her scientist mother (Kerry Bishe) died whilst giving birth in the Peruvian Amazon, New York paramedic Cassandra “Cassie” Webb (Johnson) coolly saves lives without forming any emotional attachments besides her level-headed work partner, Ben (Adam Scott). A routine call-out almost ends in tragedy and Cassie’s solitary life in Manhattan spins off its axis. She experiences disorienting visions, initially passed off as déjà vu, which suggest she is predisposed to glimpse the future and subtly alter the course of history through her actions.

This magical clairvoyance pinpoints Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim) before he attempts to kill three young women, Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney), Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor) and Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced). Ezekiel possesses similar powers of prediction to Cassie and he has foreseen the trio will unlock extraordinary abilities and collectively end his reign of terror. Aided by technical expert Amaria (Zosia Mamet), Ezekiel enacts his callous plan of self-preservation, targeting everybody who stands in his path… including Cassie.

Madame Web joins Captain Marvel and Black Widow in proactively addressing the gender imbalance in a lucrative, action-oriented genre dominated by testosterone-heavy, white male fantasies. Johnson isn’t afraid to let her protagonist be unsympathetic, even unlikeable, in the eye of a computer-generated storm. As Cassie masters her abilities, tension dissipates because we know she can outflank Ezekiel and always stay one step ahead of him. She doesn’t play fair but he’s the villain.

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The Taste Of Things (12A)

Review: A great meal never begins with the taste, even if you are dining in the dark. The appearance and aromas of the food usually kickstart the sensory intoxication followed quickly by taste and texture as flavours dance invitingly across the palate, hopefully sparking joy as the chef intended. Director Tran Anh Hung‘s delicate period romance feeds that mouth-watering journey with a beautiful opening sequence.

With merest morsels of dialogue, The Taste Of Things glides around the sunlit kitchen of a late 19th-century French country estate as two cooks and an assistant choreograph movements perfectly to prepare a gastronomic tour de force worthy of a MasterChef final. Cinematographer Jonathan Ricquebourg allows our eyes to feast on courses of oven roasted veal, turbot poached in milk and a puff pastry crown heaving with crayfish and vegetables enrobed in a glossy cream sauce. By the time the first course, a consomme, arrives at the table to orgasmic whimpers of appreciation, we know the characters and their intimate bonds.

Benoit Magimel and a radiant Juliette Binoche are elegantly paired as the gourmand and his private cook, who behave as husband and wife without needing rings on their fingers. Their farm-to-table courtship is delightful, heightened by tableaux of tasteful buttock and breast nudity that liken the curves of the human form to the luscious flesh of syrup-soaked fruit. Anh Hung‘s script showcases the finest ingredients behind and in front of the camera without any sense of unnecessary urgency. Emotions simmer gently and we leave the cinema both completely nourished and ravenous.

Wealthy gastronomic connoisseur Dodin Bouffant (Magimel) has cultivated a reputation as “the Napoleon of culinary arts” thanks to his enduring partnership with his cook of more than 20 years, Eugenie (Binoche). She instinctively interprets his recipe ideas in the kitchen to the delight of Dodin’s close-knit circle of friends including local doctor Rabaz (Emmanuel Salinger), Grimaud (Patrick d’Assumcao) and Magot (Jan Hammenecker).

“I converse with you in the dining room through what you eat,” Eugenie assures the men when they plead for her company at the table. She rebuffs Dodin’s marriage proposals, fearing the relationship will change if they formalise the current arrangement. Instead, Eugenie focuses on nurturing a girl called Pauline (Bonnie Chagneau-Ravoire) with an extraordinary palate and concealing her occasional fainting fits from the master of the house.

Based on Marcel Rouff’s novel The Passionate Epicure, The Taste Of Things is an intoxicating tale of companionship and culinary passion that builds to a bittersweet final bite. Away from the stove, Anh Hung‘s picture shows restraint and rhapsodises the communal experience of food in poetic dialogue. “The discovery of a new dish brings more joy to humanity than the discovery of a new star,” swoons Dodin. Truly delectable.

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