The Truth about Emanuel is a 2013 which boasts a superb cast, and an unusual storyline with a bizarre and intriguing plot twist. The cast first. There is Frances O'Connor, who was so wonderful in The Missing, here playing an American step-mother. There is Alfred Molina, always dependable, as her husband. There is Kaya Scodelario as the pretty teenage daughter of the family and Aneurin Barnard, excellent in Cilla as Bobby Willis, as her new boyfriend. Finally, there is Jessica Biel, who is always worth watching.
Now the set-up. Kaya Scodelario is the central character. She was born as her mother died, a tragedy that has shaped her life and her outlook. Her dad remarried a year ago, and O'Connor's character makes valiant efforts to bond with the girl, but to no avail. When Biel's character becomes a neighbour, an apparently single woman with a young baby, there is an opportunity for the teenager to do some babysitting. But something very strange is going on - is the lovely woman next door all that she seems?
What could possibly go wrong? The script, is the answer. I am afraid that I felt that the writers of the story, Francesca Gregorini (who also directs) and Sarah Maur Thorp, relied too heavily on a twist that occurs before the film is half way through. I don't want to say more about it because that would be a spoiler. After the plot twist, the film commences a slow descent to silliness, and the result is profoundly unsatisfying. A pity,because this could have been a really memorable movie.
To some extent, the failings of the screenplay are mitigated by the excellence of the acting. I though all five of the lead actors did a really good job with the material. But when I learned that the film was originally due to be called Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes, it tended to confirm my impression that Francesca Gregorini didn't have a clear idea of what to do with the resources available to her. A pity, for this film is really a missed opportunity.