THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY
IN Hollywood movies, road trips go through vast landscapes in open-top sports cars.
In this British one, the journey is less glamorous.
Jim Broadbent walks more than 600 miles in sensible brown shoes, shirt, tie and blue jumper over rolling countryside, past boarded-up shops and roaring motorways.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage is more interested in heart and soul than burning rubber.
Based on Rachel Joyce’s best-selling book, this drama begins with Jim’s retiree Harold Fry peeping through net curtains on to his suburban street in the coastal Devon town of Kingsbridge while his wife Maureen vacuums.
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Their routine is upended when Harold receives a letter from former colleague Queenie Hennessy telling him she’s in a hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed dying from cancer.
On his way to post a reply, Harold decides that setting off to the far north of England would be a better idea, despite not even having a bag to carry any non-existent supplies in.
Maureen (Penelope Wilton) is left behind wondering not only what will become of her husband, but also why he holds Queenie in such dedicated affection.
During chance encounters with strangers and via flashbacks, we learn Harold might have another subconscious motivation for his pilgrimage — namely a mystery surrounding his son.
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The film takes a turn for the worse when other people join his quest.
An attempt to create a cross-generational understanding by having 18-year-old Wilf follow Harold falls flat.
It’s like someone has been parachuted from a Channel 4 yoof drama into what is an otherwise gentle and grown-up film.
Director Hettie Macdonald also stumbles down a dark path with one brief scene that is too graphic for a 12A.
Thankfully, Broadbent is more than able to handle the uneven tone. Whether he is asked to perform comedy, tender moments or display intense anguish, this truly great British actor is never anything less than engrossing.
It’s just a shame that one of the few cast members who is able to match him — Wilton — doesn’t get more screen time.
Despite the missteps, this film should be commended for taking the unlikely decision not to rose-tint the view.
BIG GEORGE FOREMAN
THE get fit sequence is a key part of any boxing film.
In this largely true story of how Foreman became the oldest heavyweight champion in the world, the pudgy pugilist is refused pancakes by his wife, pulls a jeep and carries a cow.
But even that can’t tone up the man best known for putting his name to a grill.
This is more Stocky than Rocky. Credit Khris Davis for the way he portrays Foreman’s transformation – and I’m not talking about going from a muscleman to possessing more spare tyres than the Michelin Man.
No, it’s for switching from humourless power puncher to a charismatic entertainer.
In his early years Foreman was an angry man with little to say, but after coming out of retirement he found humour. Sadly, the funny George only arrives near the end of this round-by-round take on his remarkable life.
Even Davis and Forest Whitaker, playing George’s mentor Doc Broadus, can’t lift an often flat-footed drama. This story of an underdog who gave up fighting to become a street preacher, before coming back to win the title again aged 45, has plenty of meat.
But it’s never tender or raw.
PETER PAN & WENDY
(PG) 106mins, streaming on Disney+
HE’S famously the little boy who can never grow old, so it’s ironic that this live-action version of J.M. Barrie’s story creates as much magic and excitement as an afternoon in an old people’s home.
David Lowery is the director and he’s given us a drab, dreary reimagining, though it does start with potential.
Wendy (Ever Anderson) and her two brothers play- swordfight in their PJs before Peter (Alexander Molony) bursts through the window and takes them on the flight of their lives through the London skies.
But when they hit Neverland, it’s a far less magical place than soaring above Big Ben.
It is, in fact, a bunch of grassy hills and brown caves, where Peter constantly fights a tired Captain Hook (Jude Law).
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While many could have brought some hammy comedy of tantalising terror to the role of Hook, Law is as washed out as the movie itself, playing it straight and looking like he’s just waiting for the cheque to clear.
Even Peter’s constant companion, the seen-but-not-heard Tinker Bell (Yara Shahidi) can’t sprinkle any fairy dust on this cold, watered-down version of the magical tale.
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