Before Harry Potter, before the Supreme Court and a better teen comedy filmed in Surrey
They were ordinary people, not fighters, but bit by bit the injustice got to Mildred. “You need to get you some civil rights,” she’s told. A letter to Bobby Kennedy, the Attorney General, got to the American Civil Liberties Union and their lawyers took up the case. It took some convincing to get Richard to agree because it required him and his wife to go home and break the law again. When the case got to the Supreme Court they declined even to be there. In keeping with their character, the film avoids histrionics, rednecks spitting out racism or crescendos of outrage and tells their story calmly. He’s taciturn, she’s quietly indignant (and probably an Oscar nominee). (International Village) 4 ½ out of 5
THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN: If you can remember how refreshing the film Juno was in the rather crowded high school comedy genre, here’s another one you’re bound to like. It’s also light and wise and was also filmed around here. That’s Surrey’s Guilford Park Secondary School in several scenes and you won’t mistake Duffin’s Donuts on 41st. You’ll also recognize the aches of growing up as a teenager, although Hailee Steinfeld as Nadine is a narcissist-in-training and therefore a harder case than most.
She brings on her own problems and then feels them bigger than they really are. The first we see of her she tells her history teacher (Woody Harrelson) she’s going to commit suicide. He knows it’s not real and that she’s a drama queen. He deftly defuses her mood. It’s the first of several talks between the two, full of funny lines and sharp mildly-cynical banter. They’re the best scenes in the film. Between them we get Nadine’s life story currently upset because her best friend is a traitor. The girl is secretly sleeping with Nadine’s oh-so-perfect brother. To her it’s a crisis because it means she’s alone and nobody likes her. The film (a first effort by writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig and the latest from producer James L. Brooks) is smart in the way it plumbs these teenage fears. One sour note: Nadine’s dad died in a car accident. Did that contribute to her problems? No answer. (International Village, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 3 out of 5
LONDON ROAD: Sometimes even the good ones take a long time to get here. This film made the festival circuit, including Toronto and Vancouver, last year. One paper in TO gave it 5 stars. I’m not going that high, but I did enjoy it for trying something wildly different and making it work. This is a musical based on a series of murders. Or at least on what people living nearby said about them.
Ten years ago in Ipswich (near London, England) five prostitutes were killed. A local man was convicted and writer Alecky Blythe created the musical based on interviews with people who lived there. A critical hit at the National Theatre, it was turned into this film by the original director Rufus Norris. The result is fun, sometimes big and anthemic, sometimes fearful and horrified. The songs are made up of actual quotes. Lines like “Everyone is very, very nervous and unsure of anything. Basically.” Repeat it often enough and it’s a song. There’s a particularly lively sequence when people recall how every man came under suspicion. “You automatically think it could be him,” they sing looking at the next one who comes by. The characters are real English types and the performances, the editing and the direction are brisk and spirited. Tom Hardy has a small role. (International Village) 3 ½ out of 5