Based on a notorious true story, this film takes a muted approach that matches the Victorian period and attitudes, which somewhat undermines the vivid emotions of the characters. It's a fascinating story about a woman caught in her society's harshly restrictive rules about women, and the script by Emma Thompson captures some strong observations, interaction and personal feelings, but the film is so dark and repressed that it ultimately feels a bit dull.
In the mid 19th century, Effie Gray (Dakota Fanning) has been courted by noted art critic John Ruskin (Greg Wise) since she was only 12 years old, and he has waited for her to come of age to marry her. But as she moves in with his suffocating parents (Julie Walters and David Suchet) in London, Effie soon realises that she's trapped in a hopeless situation. While he's loving, John simply refuses to touch her, which makes her doubt her own intellect and femininity. She's befriended by Lady Eastlake (Thompson), who knows a thing or two about cold marriages and helps her make a plan. Then Effie and John travel to Scotland with John's protege, the painter Everett Millais (Tom Sturridge), and Effie begins to understand that there might be other possibilities out there.
Since the film is made in Victorian style, it leaves all of the heaving passion far beneath the surface. It's obvious that Effie (and the audience) are craving a bit of lusty bodice-ripping, but any action remains behind closed doors, only hinted at in the clever dialogue. This makes the film realistic and intriguing, but difficult to get a grip on. And instead of the scandalous love triangle of historical record, the film plays out more as a drama about a young woman working out a complex escape from male-dominated society. Even so, it's a compelling journey, with some remarkable twists and turns along the way, and the complex characters add plenty of detail.
Continue reading: Effie Gray Review
When young Effie Grey (Dakota Fanning) is married to John Ruskin (Greg Wise), a man ten years older than her, she feels no pleasure whatsoever. She is soon whisked away from her native Scotland and follows her husband as he travels to Venice in order to work on his book, 'The Stones of Venice'. People often notice that there is no love between the pair, and they drift apart during their time in Italy, with Effie spending her time walking the streets of Venice and spending more and more time with her husband's protégée John Everett Millais (Tom Sturridge). With the two steadily falling in love, the struggle between right and wrong rages within Effie, as she is forced to make the choice between what she is told, and what she wants.
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Conceived and roughed together by Italian directors Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Leone, the guts of West are some of the least likely of his films. The story concerns a woman (Claudia Cardinale, who spends the entire movie clenching her teeth) whose husband and family are murdered, leaving her with a valuable plot of land. This land has the eye of one Frank (Henry Fonda in his biggest villain role ever), and he's determined to be rid of the woman in order to get it. A half-Mexican named Cheyenne (Jason Robards) ends up accused of the murders, and a nameless bounty hunter (sound familiar?) who's known due to his harmonica playing by the name Harmonica (Charles Bronson) inserts himself into the mix. The film culminates with Harmonica turning in Cheyenne for the reward money, then using that money to outbid Frank at the public auction of the land... and then of course there's a showdown to be had.
Continue reading: Once Upon A Time In The West Review
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