Franklyn DVD review

Review 15 Jun 2009 - 04:52
Franklyn

A mystery unfolds between a mysterious future city and modern day London, in this intriguing sci-fi outing…

It's been a pleasure to re-watch Franklyn at a distance of some months from my review of its very brief UK theatrical release in late Winter of this year. The posters and limited publicity campaign painted this Brit-SF thriller as some kind of urban fantasy in the line of Golden Compass, but to my great delight it turned out to be a thought-provoking and pretty serious science-fiction outing.

To recap, Franklyn presents us with a multi-threaded narrative following four pretty desperate characters: Eva Green is the bohemian, goth-addled student who presents suicide attempts as coursework; Sam Riley the jilted groom whose bad experience seems to have sent him over the edge and brought back an imaginary childhood friend; Bernard Hill the decent pastor desperately searching for his lost and mentally-ill son in the confusing labyrinth of London...

...and, most incongruously, Ryan Phillippe is a masked avenger in a fantastical sci-fi city where the industrial revolution seems to have encouraged rather than diminished church attendance. 'Meanwhile City' is a vast and sprawling multi-faith metropolis where the police are vergers with batons, and atheism is outlawed. You can choose your own religion, but you'd better damn well have one.

Phillippe's self-appointed mission is to fight the oppressive forces, and his Rorschach-style mask is no hindrance, since many of the various city faiths require odd clothing or obscurement of the face. Tonight, his particular task is to kill a man, an event that will bring the four disparate strands of Franklyn together...

Despite the very effective and glossy veneer presented in the 'Meanwhile City' segments, Franklyn actually harks back to pre-Star Wars science-fiction movies; it's thoughtful, serious and well-written. If it can become ponderous at times and drag you down, at least there are surprises round the corner and at least it isn't treating you like a bloody idiot.

The narrative's fractured technique means that director Gerald McMorrow has been able to really concentrate his £6 million on the dazzling and Gilliam-esque city that Ryan Phillippe's character inhabits, and the Double Negative visual effects are second to none in conjuring up one of the best steam-punk environments yet committed to celluloid. Elsewhere, the film's significantly more frugal look is compensated by an imaginative choice of London locations and a string of mostly-excellent performances by Green, Riley, Hill, Phillippe, Art Malik and Susannah York, amongst others.

The atmosphere is dense and gritty, with an urban sensibility that puts the viewer in mind of Alan J. Pakula's Klute (1971). Joby Talbot's music gets its longest leash in the 'fantasy' segments, but provides a solid emotional core throughout, whilst cinematographer Ben Davis commits some memorable visuals, and not only in the 'expensive' section.

Franklyn is an intriguing science-fiction excursion that no true SF fan should miss - because we rarely get treated this seriously by Hollywood. What a pity it lacks any kind of release schedule in the US.

Extras
A Moment In The Meanwhile (29.42)
This is a fairly satisfying 30 minute 'Making Of', if clearly assembled from the same material used to generate trailers and other publicity elements. What a pity that it's the only extra on the DVD, as Franklyn really did deserve a commentary.

Film: 4 starsExtras: 3 starsFranklyn is released on 22nd June.

5

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