Wednesday 11 November 2020

Angelica - film review

Angelica is a macabre film released in 2015. Or was it 2017? Apparently it disappeared from sight for two years, a mysterious experience which suggests a troubled genesis - which actually seems entirely appropriate for this particular movie! I've read some negative reviews, especially those which complain that the screenplay is very different from Arthur Phillips' source novel, but I found it extremely watchable. It's billed as a supernatural story, but it doesn't follow a conventional path and the events are susceptible, I think, to more than one interpretation. (Again, I've read some reviewers who strike me as being overly prescriptive about their take on what the story means - perhaps that's just a polite way of saying that I completely disagreed!)

The film's director is Mitchell Lichtenstein, son of the legendary Roy, and the lead role is taken by another American, the impressive Jena Malone. But the story is mainly set in Victorian England, and there are key roles for several British actors, including James Norton, who plays such an inconsequential part that he must have been cast prior to becoming famous. When I say 'mainly', this is because the story is primarily told in flashback; there are scenes at the start and end from the twentieth century. I felt, however, that this 'framing' method was clumsy and unnecessary.

The crucial events begin when a young doctor (played by Ed Stoppard, another son of a famous father) falls for a shop assistant called Constance (Malone). Soon they are married, and their sexual relationship is passionate. But when Constance gives birth to their daughter, Angelica, things change for the worse. 

I don't want to say too much about the storyline, except to say that I found it unorthodox and compelling. There's a fascinating role for Janet McTeer - some critics feel her performance is over-the-top, but for me it fits the narrative. After a quiet build-up, the story reaches a horrifying climax, which I felt the 'frame' rather weakened. But this is a film which in my opinion is under-rated.


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