Friday, April 25, 2008

Romulus, My Father Review

This is probably the most harrowing emotional ordeal of a movie I've seen since Away from Her. Rare is the movie that manage to effectively generate such genuine sadness and emotion without devolving into total melodrama. Eric Bana is one of the most underated and underappreciated actors working today. Though his performances will never have the bombast of someone like Daniel Day-Lewis he has a remarkable way of inhabiting and truly becoming characters, even more fantastical ones like Bruce Banner in Hulk or Hector in Troy. Here he plays a tortured character unable to move on from his troubled unfaithful wife yet still every bit the hero to his son. Young Kodi Smit-McPhee (who will be starring alongside Viggo Mortensen in the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road later this year) is remarkably effective here. He manages to generate believable emotion and gives what might be the best performance by a male child actor since Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun. One of the things Aussie movies are often known for is the constant emphasis on the outback environs. Romulus is no exception as the outback becomes nearly a character, an oppresive reminder of the difficulties of life for this family of European immigrants after World War II. Unfortunately the film's biggest weakness is probably Franka Potenta (who was very strong in Run, Lola, Run and the Bourne series), she fails to humanize and make tolerable her character in a way that would make the whole film that much more effective. Her troubled mother character instead comes off as more a villain and a force of nature impacting Bana and Smit-McPhee instead of the more tragic figure she seems to be meant to be. Lastly, many, myself among them, will likely struggle with the vignette-like nature of the film. Romulus plays out more like a collection of memories and moments without a real compelling thread to hold them together. Though it's difficult to watch and is very un-Hollywood, Romulus is made compelling by the remarkable lead performances.

Overall Score: 7/10

No comments: