Movie Review – A Ghost Story

Pretention be damned – less a film than a feeling, the emotional experience that is A Ghost Story is positively haunting.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan 

A young couple, dubbed only as C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara), see their not-so-perfect suburban life meet its end when C is killed in a headlong collision. He awakens in his afterlife as a ghost, still in the living world, yet invisible to everyone around him. Unable to cease existing, he seeks to connect with his wife – a journey that will take him to the end and beginning of time.

There’s not a trace of conflict in A Ghost Story. There’s barely a plot, and save for a handful of exchanges and one weighty, thought-provoking monologue, there’s very little dialogue. There are no visual effects in creating C’s supernatural apparition – Casey Affleck quite literally wears a bed sheet with eyeholes cut out of it – and much of the film consists of long, lingering scenes in which his spirit simply stands and watches life go by in all its significance and insignificance. And yet, David Lowery’s (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pete’s Dragon) miniscule passion project is bold, profound and possibly the best film of 2017 so far.

Made in secret on a shoestring budget cobbled together from what Disney paid him for Pete’s Dragon, Lowery’s big ideas transcend money limitations and the shackles of traditional storytelling to form a breathtaking and masterful rumination on love, life and death, memory and time, existence and its meaning (or lack thereof) and much, much more. It’s so shockingly simplistic in its execution that budding filmmakers everywhere are no doubt kicking themselves that they didn’t think of it first.

Something so artful is, naturally, not going to appeal to everyone’s tastes. It’s going to be a non-event for anyone who expects structure and showiness in their cinema, and is likely to frustrate with its meandering and drawn-out nature. But hopefully most will be able to absorb the richness and beauty that perpetuates its seemingly inconsequential moments.

C’s journey takes turns as simultaneously funny and sad as he’s confined to his house and forced to watch generations pass and new tenants shack up. A fellow ghost next door (who as the credits reveal is, strangely enough, played by a certain pop star everyone except Jerry Seinfeld would recognise) communicates amusingly with C, but tragically reveals that it can’t remember who it is waiting for. This melancholy of being unable to do anything but wait truly resonates, with Lowery cleverly framing in a 4:3 letterbox with rounded edges – not unlike a polaroid – giving that claustrophobic feeling that reflects the ghost’s own sense of being trapped for eternity.

Granted, there’s not a great deal of acting one can do from beneath a bed sheet, but Casey Affleck makes C’s odyssey endearing and hypnotic, attesting to the strong work he and Rooney Mara do when they share the screen in human form. And at the heart of it all is Daniel Hart’s mystic, synth-heavy score that perfects that cosmic feeling. You’ll leave cathartic, satisfied and enlightened; Lowery has done proud A24’s continuing reputation for releasing today’s most interesting films.

A Ghost Story is available in Australian cinemas from July 27 

Image courtesy of Madman Entertainment 

Movie Review – Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan serves up another masterpiece in his scarily authentic capturing of Operation Dynamo.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

It’s May 1940. The Allied forces of Britain, France, Canada and Belgium have been rapidly driven back across Europe by the ruthless German army, and now find themselves encircled on a stretch of beach called Dunkirk. 400,000 soldiers are practically in sight of safety, but, without a fully mobilised navy to carry them across the English Channel, are under threat of persistent bombing and shelling. A flotilla of civilian vessels is commissioned to ferry the soldiers home, but time is running out as the Germans steadily tighten the noose and advance on the beach.

It is this colossal military disaster (Winston Churchill’s words, not mine) that visionary writer/director Christopher Nolan tackles in Dunkirk, his tenth feature film. Using an ensemble cast of British actors (Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance), Nolan plunges the audience into the midst of the action at a moment’s notice. For 106 minutes and across three brilliantly staged threads, Dunkirk is wall-to-wall tension and existential dread that holds you in its firm grasp.

It does this by composing its story across a trio of intersecting and overlapping timelines; one told across a week, the second a single day and the final a mere hour. They all begin at the start and come together briefly at the end, which ensures the film always has something happening and actions in motion.

There are no rousing speeches and no soaring fanfare; Nolan eschews longwinded exposition or lengthy character backstories, with some reflecting the harsh namelessness of wartime by simply being called something like Shivering Soldier, as is case of Murphy’s character.

Remarkably, this is one war film where the enemy is not once glimpsed in the flesh. And yet, despite that, the Germans are a persistent presence – from the first frame through to the very last, they cast a long shadow over everything. Nolan imbues the film with a trickling sense of dread that soaks into every frame, so that even though the enemy is never seen, their aura is never absent.

In a technical sense, Dunkirk personifies exemplary. The throbbing soundtrack, once again courtesy of frequent collaborator Hans Zimmer, employs blaring horns and sheer noise to rattle your bones. An almost omnipresent ticking stopwatch underlines the impeccable sound design, which places you in the moment. Every bullet carves the screen and lands with a deafening thud; every dive from a Stuka bomber pierces the air like a shrieking banshee. It’s a terrifying aural and sensory assault from which the audience is unable to escape, much like the stranded soldiers around which the film revolves.

Nolan’s slavish pursuit of authenticity in Dunkirk is just one in long list of commendable aspects. Is it his magnum opus? It’s simply too soon to say, and with a filmography that also boasts The Prestige, Inception and Memento, it’s a question that is practically impossible to definitively answer. However, it is undoubtedly his most haunting and his most visceral, and you owe it to yourself to seek out the largest screen possible to soak it in.

And yes, for the One Direction fan who somehow found their way onto this review; Harry Styles does look pretty perf in camo.

Dunkirk is available in Australian cinemas from July 20

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films

Movie Review – Paris Can Wait

Another Coppola steps into the spotlight, but this one proves herself better at crafting a travelogue than a film.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan 

Anne (Diane Lane) is in Cannes with her husband Michael (Alec Baldwin), a workaholic movie producer unable to put his phone down for five minutes. Their vacation to Paris has been delayed as Michael must stop over in Budapest, a plan which hits a bump when Anne can’t board the plane due to an ear infection. Michael’s French business partner Jacques (Arnaud Viard) is headed for Paris anyway, and offers to drive Anne, to which they both agree. But what was meant to be a short car trip stretches into a leisurely journey, leading Anne to grow suspicious over Jacque’s flirtatious nature and his use of her credit card on every meal and hotel.

Eleanor Coppola (wife of Francis Ford and mother of Sofia) has spent most of her life documenting behind the scenes of her famous family’s films – most notoriously Heart of Darkness, which exposed the troubled production of Apocalypse Now. But now, at 81, she’s made her first foray into fiction, writing and directing Paris Can Wait. The result is about as far away from the works of her kin as you can get. Paris Can Wait is an airy, sort-of romance mostly devoid of the standard plot and character development you’d expect of a film – even a sense of purpose seems absent.

This isn’t necessarily a criticism, as Paris Can Wait is still quite a pleasant time. It’s mostly saved due to the charisma and chemistry of its two leads, particularly Diane Lane, who so naturally slides into the role of neglected yet optimistically-minded wife, and is given a bit of emotional depth when she reveals a somewhat tragic backstory. Coppola is certainly confident behind the camera, capturing the beautiful scenery of the French countryside in wonderfully warm shots, and has a very keen eye for the mouth-watering dishes and desserts the pair are served in their very frequent restaurant stopovers.

But the visual goodies and Jacques’ ruminations on wine and culture can only amuse for so long. With so little in the way of conflict or interesting ideas or… anything actually happening, it turns into a bit of drag. It’s not long before we, like Anne, just want to hurry up and get to Paris already. It’s hard to shake the sense that the film is a disguise for everyone involved to take a paid vacation across France, since it feels for the most part like a feature-length travel advertisement for the country.

The most criminal waste here is Alec Baldwin, who’s given what amounts to less than five minutes screen time and little to do other than express his jealousy of Anne and Jacques spending time together over the phone, despite barely seeming to notice her when he is around.

Given Michael’s prominence in film, one can’t help but wonder if there’s an autobiographical angle to Eleanor Coppola’s story – surely she hasn’t been in a similar situation with Francis Ford? And what would he be thinking when he sees this? Once again, the real substance lurks behind the scenes for Eleanor.

Paris Can Wait is available in Australian cinemas from July 19 

Image courtesy of Transmission Films

Movie Review – The Beguiled

Sexuality turns sinister in Sofia Coppola’s bewitching return to a more savage era.

 ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan 

A girls’ seminary stands isolated in rural Virginia during the American Civil War, where several young women and their teachers remain sheltered from the violence raging on outside. While roaming the fields one day, one of the youngest girls stumbles upon a wounded Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell) and helps him back to the school. The proprietor, Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman), is wary of helping an enemy soldier, but eventually gives in to the girls’ pleas to nurse him back to health. The house is soon in disarray as everyone’s fascination with the soldier turns into obsession, and sexual tension and rivalry swells as both the teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) and eldest student Alicia (Elle Fanning) make known their attraction to him. Pressures boil and erupt, and things soon take a dark and unexpected turn.

Though technically a remake, or a new spin on the same source novel (the original, weirdly enough, was by the Dirty Harry team Don Siegel and Clint Eastwood), the notorious Sofia Coppola’s take on The Beguiled is her freshest and most interesting film in years. It’s without question her most thrilling film, and marks a slight departure from her signature dressy drama style – at least in the film’s second half.

Curiously, it also feels somewhat like a return to the dynamic of her debut feature, The Virgin Suicides. In a similar vein, it lures us into a mystifying group of women and their sexual frustrations and relationships with one another. But we’re never quite given all the pieces of their puzzle, so they remain enticingly mysterious – beguiling, if you will.

It’s a slow burner, but also a wickedly entertaining ride, balancing its flirtations with a welcome helping of humour. The older actors – Farrell, Kidman and Dunst – are on typical good form, particularly Farrell, who’s given great opportunity to exhibit a descent from charming larrikin to unhinged madman.

But it’s the younger actresses who really excel and make an impression here. The always excellent Elle Fanning doesn’t get quite as much screen time to flaunt herself as usual, but she’s mastered the art of the temptress, oozing sexuality like a walking aphrodisiac with her endlessly breathy vocals and seductive looks. Australia’s own Angourie Rice could very well be the next Elle Fanning with her naturally distinctive looks and charisma. The most junior member Oona Laurence runs away with the most laughs, unafraid to voice her thoughts on her innocent fixation with the Corporal.

The inclinations, intentions and morality of these characters becomes extremely hazy, so it’s difficult to know who to root for, if anyone at all. Like Lady Macbeth, the alleged “pro-feminist stance” this has been said by some to take is debatable, given the disturbing nature through which it is triumphed; nonetheless Coppola’s return to fine form is a terrific, beguiling achievement.

The Beguiled is available in Australian cinemas from July 12 

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2017

Wiener-Dog – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

An impressive cast doesn’t save Todd Solondz from drowning along with his wiener-dog.

Zachary Cruz-Tan

I don’t know Todd Solondz nor am I acquainted with his body of work, but after seeing Wiener-Dog, his latest black comedy about a wandering dachshund, I believe a successful career is still far ahead of him. This is an awkward, at times frustrating film in which no one utters a single line of credible dialogue and every performance – except Danny DeVito’s – is tuned to the frequency of a shock therapy patient.

DeVito plays Dave Schmerz, a failed screenwriter working for a prestigious film school. His story is one of numerous, vaguely interconnected tales about different bunches of people and, of course, a wiener-dog that somehow finds its way into their care. “A dachshund passes from oddball owner to oddball owner, whose radically dysfunctional lives are all impacted by the pooch”, states the film’s IMDb synopsis, and yet I don’t recall the dog doing a single thing of value except providing the film with an excruciatingly overdrawn shot of faeces. Its owners could’ve been lugging around an old toilet and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Sad, then, that the movie is called Wiener-Dog. Solondz, who wrote and directed, must feel affection for canines, but it is lost in his screenplay, which frowns upon them ambivalently with a truly disturbing conclusion, and Julie Delpy having to constantly remind her son that “Dogs are not humans!”. Everyone’s so stunted by the strange dialogue and bizarre staging that the entire picture becomes a distraction of itself. It might also be the only movie under 90 minutes to have an intermission. Gives us the perfect opportunity to walk out, I suppose.

Wiener-Dog is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July) 

Image courtesy of Transmission Films & Revelation Film Festival

Movie Review – Lady Macbeth

If only Pride & Prejudice had this much grit, trepidation and bloodshed…

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan

In rural England, 1865, the youthful Katherine (Florence Pugh) lives out a miserable existence in a house with her husband Alexander (Paul Hilton), a man twice her age, and his father Boris (Christopher Fairbank), who scolds her for not doing her marital duties and bearing an heir despite Alexander’s disinterest in her sexually. When the two men leave the estate on business, Katherine is free to roam the grounds, and takes an interest in a roguish worker named Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis). A few deliberate encounters later, the two begin an affair and Katherine is finally happy – until the return of the malicious men of her life. Unwilling to return to her pointless squalor, Katherine uses any means necessary to protect her new life.

For the uninitiated, Lady Macbeth is not in fact a feminine twist on Shakespeare’s tragedy (though the title is drawn from the similarly bloodthirsty protagonist of Macbeth), but based on the 1865 Russian novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov. William Oldroyd – yet another impressive debut director, graduating from theatre productions – updates the story for a post-Game of Thrones world, dialling down the romantic aspect and drenching it in confronting sex and violence.

Oldroyd immediately makes his style of filmmaking clear-cut; adhering to realism and letting his imagery or actors’ expressions do the talking, keeping things taught, well-paced and to the point. There’s a definite unease that lingers over everything that unfolds, from Katherine’s initial unholy treatment as a subhuman object, to the radical sexual romps with Sebastian, at which time anyone could simply waltz in and discover them.

The house maid Anna (Naomi Ackie) causes anxiety every time she’s on screen; she knows about the affair and is clearly conflicted by her loyalty to Katherine and the fear of what could happen to her as an accomplice. It’s doubly distressing when she’s so startled by the chaos around her she becomes mute.

21-year-old Florence Pugh hands in her star-making performance, capable of portraying a great range of emotion through a face she’s forced to keep straight most of the time. Whether being abused or plotting her next sinister deed, she maintains a confidently unchanging façade that tells those around her that nothing is wrong, and tells us exactly what is really going on; it’s an outstanding duality.

It’s a bit of a letdown then, that her character gradually becomes a tad one-note. Her eventual shift into taking control and becoming the cold, unsympathetic master of her own destiny is well handled, but things become a little predictable. When someone gets in her way, you already know that she’s planning to off them. When she does it’s unsettling, and soon it’s hard not to commiserate more with her victims and unwitting accomplices than Katherine herself.

Still, Lady Macbeth engages, shocks and entertains, and has an energy coursing through it that feels rare for a period piece, giving it a distinguishing modernist feel. An unexpected approach to a conventional old tale combined with some terrific acting and production work makes Oldroyd’s darkly atmospheric debut a gritty gem worth seeking out.

Lady Macbeth is available in Australian cinemas from June 29 

Image courtesy of Sharmill Films

Movie Review – First Girl I Loved

Love can take unconventional forms: First Girl I Loved shows all the delights and despairs of this in a short but sweet marvel.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan 

While photographing the high school softball match, seventeen-year-old Anne (Dylan Gelula), editor of the school yearbook, suddenly discovers she’s harbouring a strong attraction to Sasha (Brianna Hildebrand), the popular, athletic star player. She confesses her feelings to her best friend Clifton (Mateo Arias), who, having held his own burning desire for Anne for quite some time, is outraged and makes it his duty to interfere with her unexpected new crush at every turn. Anne feigns a yearbook project to get to know Sasha better, and soon finds that the attraction is mutual, but social pressures, Clifton’s intrusion, their parents and a particularly disastrous stunt threaten to bring this first romance crashing back to earth.

Third time’s the charm for teen romance specialist Kerem Sanga, who delivers his best rumination on the subject yet with First Girl I Loved. He goes beyond capturing the first-time jitters of young love to create the full complicated whirlwind of coming out of the closet as a teenager. The film explores conflicting sexuality and sexual awakening, changing hearts and unrequited love, and the waves it causes within the society of a high school and family relations. It’s a frothy brew for an ostensibly simple, 90-minute teen flick, but it balances its weighty topics well without succumbing to melodrama.

What bolsters Sanga’s film is its authentic look at coming-of-age in a modern school, and how contemporary communication influences teenage relationships. Texting, naturally, plays a big part, serving as the key to Anne and Sasha really getting to know each other, and – in a memorable scene – intently tiptoes a line of intimacy as the two mutually masturbate via text message, without yet having acknowledged the inclination now clearly between them. It’s a testament to the way we now hide our emotions behind our technology.

Elsewhere it’s body language used efficaciously to create the allurement between the girls, especially in their first encounter, in which Anne conducts a faux yearbook interview with Sasha to get close to her, gauge her magnetism and unearth information – namely whether or not she has a boyfriend. Every lingering look they share and breathy pause between words confirms a subtle but undeniable temptation, furthered by believably awkward but endearing exchanges. It all feels very real, and both Gelula and Hildebrand are charismatically game.

Without spoiling too much, there’s the foreseeable heartbreak predetermined by such rollercoasters of emotion, but First Girl I Loved is always kind, tender, optimistic and ultimately a little profound. It may lack the epic scope of Blue is the Warmest Colour, but it’s an instantly endearing new look at pubescent love – one that can be enjoyed by teenagers and adults alike.

First Girl I Loved is available in Australian cinemas from June 29 

Image courtesy of This Is Arcadia Pty Ltd

Movie Review – Una

Una flips themes of paedophilia, coping mechanisms and movies based on plays on their heads, and delivers something breathtaking, shocking and wholly unexpected.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

Twenty-something Una (Rooney Mara) arrives at the busy trade workplace of an older man named Ray (Ben Mendelsohn), much to his horror. As the pair converse privately, it’s revealed that they’ve shared a forbidden, intimate past fifteen years prior – when Una was thirteen and Ray middle-aged. Una’s search for answers from the man responsible for shattering her life brings long buried emotions and memories of the past exploding to the surface, and threatens to destroy the new life Ray has made for himself.
Fences proved earlier this year that minimalist films based on plays can shock, compel and hold huge emotional weight, and Benedict Andrews’ debut feature Una happily (or, more appropriately, rather grimly) continues that trend. You can certainly get an idea of how David Harrower’s source play Blackbird may have felt in the theatre, especially given its utilisation of a singular setting for the majority of it, but never once does the film feel stagey or too dependent on dialogue to carry it.

It’s instead carried by its two stars; Aussie Ben Mendelsohn and American Rooney Mara blend seamlessly into their British roles, each making a strong case in becoming two of the finest actors of their respective generations. Much of their incredible chemistry stems from the unexpected bond between two divisions of people rarely paired off on screen.

Though the paedophilic angle is uncomfortable stuff, Ray is refreshingly not demonised or made out to be a monster. Instead, Mendelsohn makes him genuine in his actions; a man who has accepted the mistakes he’s made and done everything he can to live a good life since. And given that we really see just how much he truly loved Una and wanted everything in life for her, it’s disturbingly convincing to, disconcertingly enough, sympathise with Ray’s behaviour.

Una is even more conflicted, having led an incredibly messy, broken life since Ray’s crimes were exposed. She’s massively volatile and unpredictable; her hatred of Ray for destroying her life clashes with the love of him she once felt… which in turn rifts against the desire she finds she still holds for him.

These two great actors are supported by an intense script and claustrophobic direction that drenches every moment in great suspense, and yearning to know what could be revealed next. There’s something almost Tarantino-style to the anxiety created in each exchange, but instead of punctuating scenes with violence, there’s always another twist or bombshell waiting stressfully around each corner. If there’s one gripe it’s that Una is too short… but in that sense, perhaps this is the perfect place to leave you – longing for more.

Una is available in Australian cinemas from June 22

Image courtesy of Madman Entertainment 

Movie Review – All Eyez On Me

My name’s Thomas Munday and I’m here to say, I’m gonna rap like this in the usual way…also, don’t bother seeing this movie.

⭐ ⭐
Thomas Munday 

The musical-biopic flick is like the T1000 – still going, despite taking a slew of hits. These movies rely on our undying love for celebrities as well as our addiction to gossip. Worse still, they are all moulded into a rise-and-fall-and-rise structure. Truly, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story had the last laugh and went out with a chilling message – “STOP. MAKING. THESE. MOVIES”.

Sure, flicks like Walk the Line and Ray stand above the pack, however, the majority of which are parody worthy and borderline laughable. Making a musical biopic is like setting up a hipster café in Byron – either come up with something new or don’t do it at all. The creators of Tupac Shakur docudrama All Eyez On Me sadly failed to think outside the box. The movie looks at the short-lived career and long-lasting legacy of one of rap music’s seminal figures. It kicks off with Tupac (Demetrius Shipp jr) during his 18-month stint in prison for sexual assault. We then flash back to the late 1980s, with child and teenage Tupac faced with his mother’s role in the Black Panthers and crippling drug addiction.

Many biopics crumble thanks to one massive flaw – too much going on. The worst ones come off like a rollerdex, flipping back and forth between important events in their subjects’ lives. Sadly, All Eyez On Me will go down as a prime example of said issue. In the first act, we are faced with Moonlight-esque family dramas, Tupac’s stepfather’s brush with the law, and the rapper’s beginnings as an artist with a cause. Director Benny Boom is as erratic and irritating as a caffeinated baby, zipping from one year to the next. Title cards – showing each year and location – only make matters more confusing.

Sadly, things only get more frustrating from there. Its biggest sin is failing to get out of Straight Outta Compton’s shadow. The 2015 NWA biopic delivered an enthralling and confronting look at one of rap music’s biggest hitting groups. All Eyez on Me copies the structure, character types, discussions of race in urban and suburban America, and even specific scenes with little effect. Whereas SOC hit every note with heft, this one resembles one false note after another.

All Eyez on Me will be thrown on the pile of forgettable and lifeless musical biopics alongside everything from Jersey Boys to I Saw the Light. Sadly, it will be a long time before Tupac’s story is told with the strength and respect it deserves

All Eyez On Me is available in Australian cinemas from June 15

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films

Movie Review – The Promise

A powerful and tragic part of history is undercut by syrupy melodrama in The Promise.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Set during the opening months of the First World War, The Promise sees young apothecary, Mikael (Oscar Isaac) from rural Armenia, journey to Constantinople to study medicine at the Imperial Medical Academy. It’s here he meets and falls in love with Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), a dance tutor, even though she is already in a relationship with an American journalist, Chris (Christian Bale), and Mikael is already promised to the daughter of an affluent man back in Armenia. As tensions begin to rise, Mikael and Ana’s Armenian background means the duo are threatened by discrimination, detention or worse, death.

The Armenian genocide, which stretched from 1915 to 1922, is a dark era of history not oft examined in cinema, in part because the present day Turkish government continues to deny the event ever took place. The systematic massacre of over 1.5 million Armenians under the pretence of ‘relocation’ during wartime forms the backdrop of The Promise; a sprawling saga that proves good intentions can only carry a film so far.

By shining a light on the plight of the Armenian people, The Promise certainly provokes conversation and emotion. It’s an eye-opening history lesson that succeeds in getting you choked up at times; the film works best when it isn’t afraid to steer into suffocatingly dark territory, like when Mikael stumbles across a train transporting hundreds of Armenians to a remote labour camp.

When The Promise tackles its subject matter in the bluntest of terms, it hits you the hardest – a lot of which comes down to Isaac’s commendable lead performance and director Terry George’s staging of the aforementioned scenes. It succeeds in covering the shocking events with respect and grace without sacrificing their impact.

For every moment that tugs at your heartstrings, however, there are two others that cause you to grind your teeth. It tries to cover so much ground in its near two-and-a-half hour runtime that it feels like someone accidentally sat on the fast-forward button. Important character moments glide by too hastily, dulling the resonance of the central conflict. Too often George pulls away from the important narrative beats to focus once again on the melodramatic love triangle. It feels like he was aiming to replicate the sweeping historical epics. Nowadays, we can usually find that kind of stuff on TV – if the BBC or HBO adapted The Promise, it would be a six-part miniseries and infinitely better as a result.

With more room to gestate, The Promise could have been something special. Instead, it’s a fairly generic period piece that spends too much time on the saccharine romance and not enough time playing to its strengths. Granted, everyone is giving it their best and their hearts are in the right place – but that goodwill only stretches so far.

The Promise is available in Australian cinemas from June 15

Image courtesy of EntertainmentOne Films