Fascinating black and white photography cannot make up for the lack of energy in this dreamscape of human misery.
New director Alexandra McGuinness teamed up with award winning writer/director Brendan Grant (Directors Guild of Great Britain award for short “London Fields Are Blue”) to pen this dreamy story of good lives gone bad in Glastonbury England and the south of France.
Charlie and Alice have it all. Alice is a beautiful model who knows the ropes and has the wealth and style to prove it. Actually, Alice is a former model who knows the ropes. Knowing the ropes is the best she can do because she has a low down feeling that the things she values may be going away.
As these icons trickle through her fingers, she is wondering why the “normal people” of society do not feel the same way.
Her boyfriend Charlie comes from a broken family, his mother is insane and he is a junkie. Other than that, he leads a normal life.
So begins the film “Lotus Eaters,” screened at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Alice and Charlie’s friends develop into characters with the same degree of unfathomable fecklessness as the two leads. About halfway through the film the viewer understands that these are not meant to be real people.
These are composites of human self-delusion condemned to die for reasons over which they had no control. Their particular death sentence came as a result of the gifts they were born with. These gifts turn out to be Trojan horses, time bombs set to explode shortly after the children reach adulthood.
More to the point, the bombs go off when the children reach their late 20’s. They never reach adulthood.
Antonia Campbell-Hughes takes on the weight of Alice in this atmospheric exposition of the fantasy life of the blessed. The twenty-eight year old is able to combine her girlish good looks with her modeling experience to fit the character of Alice to a tee.
Unfortunately, the screenplay does not require her to go much beyond that. She has to act as if she does not get it. In the end, we are not sure whether she gets it or not.
Johnny Flynn plays Charlie, the handsome and privileged drug addict who is struggling to find his way. If that sounds intriguing, you will love the character and the performance. Felix (Benn Northover) rounds out the lead trio.
This film only becomes enjoyable when the viewer understands that it is not about the screenplay or the characters. It is about the cinematography and the presentation.
Director Alexandra McGuinness is able to work with co-writer Brendan Grant and cinematographer Gareth Munden to create a visceral work of semi-abstract images that penetrate to the subconscious with the rapidity of hypnosis.
First of all, to the delight of those unreconstructed black and white photography buffs, the film is shot completely in that mode. Besides being a clever way to keep costs down in a production featuring a debut cast and crew B&W is the ultimate challenge for the director and DP to show what they can do.
This particular print of the film also had some added laser-light effects flitting ephemerally in the background. This might be a mistaken addition of some vestige of the editing process. In any event, it added its part to the overall unreality of the depiction.
The footage drifts between graininess and clarity as the characters drift between stages of reality. The field of focus varies to expand the notion of a dream world in which Alice and Charlie are trapped.
They have the key but will not leave as long as they are convinced they are living well. Trapped by their own delusions the graininess of their vision translates into their lack of resolution of crisis.
The overall effect of the movie is to create a feeling similar to Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers” except not nearly as well done. Both films pay homage to the 1930s with “Dreamers’” 1930’s background films and “Lotus’” grainy black and white presentation.
“Lotus Eaters” is a paean to childhood left behind or, even worse, a childhood never realized, however the film lacks the energy to bring this to the audience with believability.
It is also a cautionary tale to twenty-some-things to be careful what you wish for; however, they are not likely to be the viewers in the audience.
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Directed by: Alexandra McGuinness
Written by: Alexandra McGuinness and Brendan Grant
Starring: Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Johnny Flynn and Benn Northover
Release Date: Tribeca Film Festival Premier April 21, 2011
MPAA: Not rated
Runtime: 78 minutes
Color: Black and White