Sunday, 14 September 2014

An Awfully Big Adventure (1995)

I am writing this less than forty-eight hours after watching the film for the first time so that the impressions I got upon viewing it are with me still.

Unfortunately the DVD I bought is an Italian version so that whilst I could still watch it in English, I could not do so with English subtitles. Seeing as the film is British and lots of the actors spoke in a thick Liverpool accent I did find it difficult at times to follow which made it a little frustrating, given how I love to examine films and tend to pull each phrase in a script to pieces. However, despite this minor hiccup, as well as that I must have been expecting something a little different, I have to say the film delivered. Not only that, but it also proved to be one of those haunting ones that last with you long after the credits come up.

This one had been on my 'to watch' list for ages but it got prominence after I heard Mike Newell (the director) mention it during a commentary about 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' (also filmed under his direction) in which he was talking about Hugh Grant and praised him for his acting in this particular venture which shows, he said, how Hugh can really act and not just do the stereotypical bumbling act. And I must say how right he was, for in this film Hugh plays a disgusting villain who not even I, try as I might, could justifiably like his character. The one thing I did notice, however, was that whilst his slicked down hair, unflattering spectacles and the expression most present on Hugh's face throughout the film do correspond with his character, any fan on looking closely can still see past that at his flawless white skin, the sculpted jawline and his very light-coloured eyes, and it still pained me when he got a good blow on the face.

But away from girly fantasies and back to the film, this is one like I'd never encountered before. The story focuses on the girl Stella (Georgina Cates), who I am yet to decide whether I could call a heroine. She is thrown into a world unknown to her innocence, where I believe both the men in her life are villains. There is no knight in shining armour in this script. P.L. O'Hara, played by Alan Rickman, is portrayed in reviews and articles I'd read before watching the film as the honourable man with true intentions. But whilst that could be considered true, I found his character also hypocritical and less to my liking than Meredith Potter's (Hugh Grant's sleazy character) for with Meredith, at least, you know where you stand.

I do love to look up information about films both before and after I've watched them and it bothered me to read that Rickman admitted to the film suffering comparisons to 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'. This film is so decidedly different to Newell and Hugh's 1994 romantic comedy that putting them on the same table to examine is not only a bad idea but also undeservedly puts this dark comedy in a bad light.

I have never read the book by the same name (by author Beryl Bainbridge) on which this film is based, so I cannot comment on how closely or not the original story was followed. However I will now have to look it up. For there are a lot of  things in this film which are implied rather than spelt out and whilst this makes for a more-interesting film, right up to the disillusioned end, I would now love to probe deeper into the plot, the sixteen-year-old Stella and both the men in her life.

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