28 November 2015

Shadows in the Sun (starring Joshua Jackson and Harvey Keitel)

I don’t remember how I first came across this film. Perhaps I read a great review of it somewhere; or perhaps Amazon recommended it to me. For some reason, though, I put it on my wishlist and received it for Christmas last year. It’s sat in our to-be-watched drawer for nearly a year but last night our adult son decided it would be a good one to watch as a family.(Note that there is another film with the same title, made in 2009 with different actors).

I had entirely forgotten the reviews I read, so wasn’t quite sure what to expect; the warm colours of the cover suggest an almost documentary style of film, perhaps one exploring the further reaches of a country via exploration. The blurb on the back describes a young book editor going in search of one of his childhood favourite authors and persuading him to write again. We were set for something quite serious, perhaps thoughtful and with attractive scenery.

What we did not expect was to be absolutely mesmerised. The story is beautifully told. Jeremy (Joshua Jackson) is a highly structured American living in London. He sleeps in a pristine flat, dresses in a suit, slicks back his hair with gel, and works in an office with an overpowering boss. He knows no other life until he’s informed that he must travel to Italy and dig out Weldon Parish (Harvey Keitel) who hasn’t written anything in twenty years.

Weldon lives with his three young adult daughters, drinks heavily, and has lost any motivation to write. He insists he’s happy. Jeremy is persistent, but gradually it becomes clear that this is his story as much as Weldon’s. Jeremy’s transformation is considerably more dramatic than Weldon’s, including his predictably falling in love with the glamorous Isabella.

All the acting is good, but Weldon’s part is outstanding. I hadn’t come across Harvey Keitel before, but he played the part to perfection. I was absolutely gripped. The pace is perfect, the direction smooth, the dialogue believable, the photography gorgeous.

An added bonus, which we were not expecting, was some humour. There are some clever lines that made us chuckle, and some amusing dance sequences. There’s also some comic violence to cars and people which didn’t make us laugh but still lightened the more serious nature of the story as a whole.

Admittedly the ending is a bit schmalzy, and the lessons taught are a little obvious… but that doesn’t matter when a film is as well-made and thought-provoking as this one.

In fact my only real niggle was that Weldon’s three daughters all spoke with distinct Italian accents. I’ve known enough bilingual/cross-cultural children to realise that this wouldn’t happen. Given that their father was supposed to be American, they should have spoken English with his accent, since though they grew up in Italy with an Italian mother.

But it’s a pedantic complaint, and one that didn’t detract in any way from my enjoyment of the film. The rating is 12 and we thought that about right. Although there’s plenty of smoking and drinking, and one intimate scene shown (without obvious detail), there’s a very refreshing lack of profanity. I can’t imagine it would be of interest to anyone under the age of about 18 anyway.

There are some extras: we watched the documentary about the making of the film, which was nicely done, though we didn’t see the interviews with the main characters.

Highly recommended if you want a thoughtful and inspiring film; there’s no fast action and the comedy isn’t slapstick or continual, but overall we thought it excellent.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's DVD Reviews

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