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My Blueberry Nights

My Blueberry Nights

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: 10,279 miles since Hong Kong: My Blueberry short documentary; Cannes Press conference with Wong Kar Wai & Norah Jones (20 mins); Character Study; trailer.

MY Blueberry Nights delivers two notable debuts: singer Norah Jones in her first film role and acclaimed Hong Kong director Wong (In The Mood For Love) Kar-Wai’s first English language picture. Both acquit themselves well even though the film itself remains a flawed piece of work.

Elizabeth (Jones) is a depressed New Yorker attempting to get over a failed relationship by hanging out and sharing blueberry pie with Jeremy (Jude Law), the owner of a cafe that specialises in pork chops.

In a bid to make a fresh start, however, Elizabeth hits the road and sends Jeremy postcards that chronicle her encounters with the various people she meets along the way, including an alcoholic cop (David Strathairn), his estranged wife (Rachel Weisz) and a feisty gambler (Natalie Portman) with father issues.

Ironically, the most obvious strengths of Kar-Wai’s film also turn out to be its biggest weaknesses. It’s beautifully directed, with lots of lingering close-ups and nicely lit bars and diners, but this lends proceedings a self-consciously art-house feel that could be mis-interpreted as pretentious by certain sections of the audience.

Likewise, the top notch cast occasionally feels like they’re showboating without necessarily being given the time to leave a lasting emotional impression. Strathairn and Weisz, especially, are excellent as the obsessed cop and guilt-ridden wife but their respective segments are simply too brief to allow their good work to make the best impression.

Jones, on the other hand, is reduced to a virtual spectator for much of the time, watching as her illustrious co-stars bear their souls and merely listening to the wisdom or self-recrimination they have to impart. It means she’s never really stretched even though she enjoys the most screen-time.

The pacing, too, feels a little pedestrian in places, while the script (co-written by Kar-Wai and Lawrence Block) isn’t always as insightful as the direction suggests it should be.

But in spite of its weaknesses, the film still remains an interesting genre piece that’s both visually arresting and nicely performed. The ending, in particular, manages to be uplifting without resorting to unnecessary schmaltz.

My Blueberry Nights is therefore best viewed as a curiosity piece that lays down some interesting markers for the future. It’s highly watchable without ever being essential.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 93mins
UK DVD Release Date: June 23, 2008