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Shadows In The Sun - Review

Shadows In The Sun

Review by Michael Edwards

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

A FAMILY drama set in the Norfolk countryside: less a premise for a box-office draw and more a summary of a new Sunday-night drama on terrestrial TV.

But behind the unfashionable exterior of this family drama set in the 1960s lies a subtly developed story of family life which questions how we see those close to us.

The story centres on the visit of Robert (James Wilby), along with his teenage daughter Kate (Ophelia Lovibond) and 10-year-old son Sam (Toby Marlowe), to his elderly mother Hannah (Jean Simmons) who has struck up an unlikely friendship with local loner Joe (Jamie Dornan).

Young, handsome Joe has no obvious reason for being there and his visits are unpredictable, although he brings with him cannabis to ease the pain of Hannah’s chronic illness.

Robert understandably becomes suspicious and increasingly jealous of the close relationship, while Sam and Kate each respond to Joe in their own ways.

The shuffle in the family dynamic sparks a reassessment of the family’s feelings for one another, much needed after Robert’s recent separation from his wife, and they gradually rediscover their mutual love.

It is a complicated web of subtle emotions very rarely addressed in contemporary cinemas, where cannabis is more usually the driver of a crazy plot to earn some fast cash than a reliever of an old lady’s pain, but it makes for compelling viewing as you are lulled into this contemplative world that stands both before and outside the hectic world eagerly depicted by more modish movies.

This tone is positively encouraged by the cinematography which shuns the gritty hand-held style favoured by most recent British dramas in favour of a traditional look with plenty of long wide-shots and unwavering close-ups of emotional faces.

This decision is not just impressive for bucking the trend either, the vivid cinematography is achieved despite the production having neither the time nor the resources to do so (it was shot on a small budget in just four weeks).

As you might expect, though, the film lapses into the occasional bout of sentimentality. When Sam stumbles across an amateur theatre troupe rehearsing Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and when Joe flees his temporary labouring job to spend time with the children, things became a little too rose-tinted for even the most nostalgic of cinema-goers.

In general, though, such moments (which should be accompanied with a wistful sigh) are snapped out of quickly by some fast editing that does a great job of maintaining pace.

In fact, for a story so dreamy and languid it’s surprising how easily the story progresses. This progress is enhanced by the balance with which each character’s experiences are presented.

The film could easily have been a chastisement of Robert’s misunderstandings, or a mourning of the gradual decline of aging Hannah, but instead it deals which each person’s individual development in an even-handed way that deployed a light touch missing particularly in recent American dramas such as Fireflies in the Garden

It’s not new or exciting, but it is a well-made and deeply engaging drama whose occasional lapses into ponderous sentimentalism can be forgiven for its more frequent forays into genuine emotional insight.

Read an interview with director David Rocksavage

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 81mins
UK Release Date: June 5, 2009