Have you ever experienced something that is simultaneously both admirable and annoying? Bono engaging the Pope on contraception, perhaps. Or maybe Ernest Vincent Wright's 'Gadsby' - a book written in its entirety without the letter 'e'? Well, Gerald Mcmorrow's 'Franklyn' very much falls into this category, occasionally even approximating those transcendental nadirs of irritation such as when, in the erstwhile example, John Paul II actually donned Bono's 'fly shades' for that most unholy of photo ops
The film is composed of four story strands each centring on a different character. Sam Riley plays Milo, a heartbroken young rake recently jilted at the altar. Eva Green is the panda-eyed goth-artist, Emilia, an enfant terrible railing against her mother and university course via the production of macabre videos of her various suicide attempts. Bernard 'gizza job' Hill plays Peter Esser, a church warden searching for his missing son and Ryan Phillipe is Preest a sack-masked vigilante battling his way against the state officials of the Meanwhile City theocracy.
This quadruple weave does not necessitate a problem in and of itself, but there is a discernable incongruity between the high-octane, comic book escapades of Preest's Meanwhile City and the rather more grey-filtered shots of the other three characters' contemporary London. Whilst such juxtaposition need not necessarily serve pejoratively, the obvious differences in both tone and production spend on the two backdrops is jarring and the upshot is a film that does not flow particularly well. That said, considering the very modest budget of £6 million, the Meanwhile City scenes are very impressive and somewhat reminiscent of James McTeigue's 'V for Vendetta' - a film with 9 times its budget. No mean feat for a directorial debut.
A larger problem, however, is the script which does not start pulling together on the film's various strands until the final act thus making for a somewhat confused middle section. Furthermore, whilst this final act is undoubtedly the picture's most accomplished piece of movie-making, the denouement is nowhere near equivalent to the duration spent waiting for the plot come together. The action and dialogue also suffer from being somewhat overly stylised. There are only a certain number of times you can take a long, heavy sigh, a slow, 'meaningful' pull on a cigarette or an ennui-ridden crypticism before it begins to become grating cliché.
Having said all this, the ambition and strangeness of the film is laudable and there are uniformly decent performances from the ensemble cast, with Bernard Hill perhaps being the pick of the bunch. Sam Riley and Eva Green are two of our more charismatic young actors and have already made two fine films in Anton Corbijn's 'Control' and Bernardo Bertolucci's 'The Dreamers' respectively. They will surely go on to bigger and better things. Indeed there is enough here to make a case for the same being true of Gerald Mcmorrow, but whilst 'Franklyn' may achieve a small cultish following, it remains a curate's egg of a film attempting to be an arthouse flick about the nature of destiny, a graphic novel blockbuster and a critique of our treatment of military veterans all at the same time. The result is a movie that is very much less than the sum of it parts. Which is annoying in and of itself.
Run time: 98 mins
In Theaters: Friday 27th February 2009
Distributed by: Contender
Production compaines: UK Film Council, Aramid Entertainment Fund, Recorded Picture Company (RPC), Film4
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 59%
Fresh: 17 Rotten: 12
IMDB: 6.2 / 10
Director: Gerald McMorrow
Producer: Jeremy Thomas
Screenwriter: Gerald McMorrow
Starring: Eva Green as Emilia, Ryan Phillippe as Preest, Bernard Hill as Esser, Sam Riley as Milo, Art Malik as Tarrant, Richard Coyle as Dan, Susannah York as Margaret, Chris Wilson as Police Officer, Kika Markham as Naomi, Mark Wingett as Frank Grant, Gary Pillai as Doctor, Jeanie Gold as Patient, Jay Fuller as Monk
Also starring: Jeremy Thomas