The wonderful news that L'enfant d'en haut just won a Silver Bear award at Berlinale (The Berlin Film Festival) reminded me that I hadn't posted reviews of the films.
Firstly can I just say Berlinale is a nightmare film festival to attend from abroad! Tickets don't go on sale until 3 days prior to the screening and they only make 10% of tickets for each performance available online and they are gone in seconds! I was very fortunate to know some kind German fans who were queuing for tickets in Berlin and managed to get me a couple. Anyway, onto the films....
The first film I saw was Shadow Dancer, it was a good, compelling thriller, set in Northern Ireland during the height of the Unionist/Republican battles. It doesn't say anything of importance about the politics, in fact it assumes the audience is already knowledgeable about the conflict and gives no real explanation of the continual cycle of violence. It's an interesting story with some unexpected twists and good acting all round, but beyond that I couldn't really see the point of it, it's not got anything new to say, nearly all the characters are unsympathetic to some extent and the relationships aren't really developed enough to make the later events believable.
Gillian has a reasonably small role as Clive Owen's (Mac's) boss in MI5. She is in maybe 3 scenes of substance and a few others where she just gives pointed looks! She plays quite an unemotional character with ambiguous loyalties. It's difficult to expand on the role more than that as the character isn't developed any further. To be honest, the things I and my fellow Gillian Anderson fans remembered most about her in this movie was her frizzy, side parted hair and the very strange way that she walks in the movie! I don't know if it was a lack of heels or an acting decision but she walks very heavily! This isn't to say her performance isn't good, she absolutely does everything she needs to do in the film, it's just nothing we haven't seen her do before and it's a very small part so it doesn't make much impact.
All in all it's a good film, it keeps you interested throughout but ultimately it's just a bit empty.
L'enfant d'en haut was an altogether different beast. Where Shadow Dancer is a fast moving
thriller with action and explosions L'enfant d'en haut is a very small, slow, tender movie. I must say at this point that I saw it in French with German subtitles and I don't speak either of those languages so I missed some of the finer details! It was really quite easy to follow though because long sections have no dialogue and there are some English speaking characters.
The main focus of the story is a young boy who steals from a nearby ski resort to keep himself and his sister alive. I don't want to get into plot spoilers but it is a film about neglect, loneliness and yearning for love. Parts of it are truly heartbreaking.
Gillian has a similar sized role in this to Shadow Dancer (perhaps 10-15 mins screen time), but it's a far more interesting role/performance. Superficially she looks very cute with her long hair and earmuffs and it's lovely to see her character interact with her 3 children so naturally. She moves from English to French very easily , although surprisingly the large majority of her dialogue is in French.
Although in most of her scenes Gillian is playing a friendly tourist, her final scene allows her to add a real depth to her performance with some very emotional moments. There is also an opportunity to see her attempt to ski...let's just say she's a much better actress than skier!! ;)
L'enfant d'en haut is a really lovely, touching, beautifully acted film. I would highly reccommend that you see it if you get the opportunity, it will stay with you for a long time.