Phyllis Logan - 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Expo Hall - Arrivals at Shrine Auditorium, Screen Actors Guild - Los Angeles, California, United States - Saturday 30th January 2016
Despite a very wobbly screenplay, this film's decent cast and gorgeous setting make it worth a look. It may be a somewhat awkward mix of comical slapstick, political ideas and darker drama, but the characters hold our interest, and the story is tangled enough to keep us wondering how it will work itself out.
It starts in Glasgow, where the political activist Rosa (Birthistle) decides to take her father's ashes to Cuba, where he once worked as an activist himself and met his wife, who later died there. Rosa's fashion-obsessed sister Allie (Wakefield) decides to come along, as well as Rosa's sardonic pal Conway (Dick). As they travel across the Cuban countryside they have a series of misadventures and meet two local men (Acosta and Simpson) who are a little too sexy and helpful to be trusted. And Rosa is reluctant to either fall in love or rely on any man.
Rosa's prickly personality is a big problem for a film that asks us to take a trip with her. She's so abrasive that she's not easy to like, and Birthistle struggles to make her sympathetic. Thankfully, she's an engaging actor who brings out Rosa's shock at having her idealism challenged by reality. And she has terrific chemistry with Acosta and Simpson, who are superb even as they simplistically represent certain aspects of Cuban society. Wakefield's story arc is less involving, but she's a lot of fun to watch, and Dick walks off with the film in an underwritten comic-relief role.
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Paul (Freeman) is a loser who teaches at a primary school in the Midlands. It's been five years since his girlfriend Jennifer (Jensen) left to pursue a Hollywood career and best pal Gordon (Watkins) took a job in a posh school that puts on the most acclaimed Christmas shows in the city. This year, a moronic teacher's assistant Mr Poppy (Wootton) and a desperate-for-fame headmistress (Ferris) have put Paul in charge of the nativity play once again. And a little lie turns Paul's show into the talk of the town.
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Leigh's storied, unconventional approach to filmmaking is part acting workshop, part pure cinema... and a performer's dream. He assembles a troupe of players, introduces them to character and storyline, and works through weeks of improvisation. The movie's dialogue and action are created on the spot during that exercise, are later morphed into a note-jammed screenplay, and then become a polished film.
Continue reading: Secrets & Lies Review