Tackling an epic romance, and doing it in a new or compelling way, isn’t easy. However, given all the buzz and nominations around this film I expected a bit more from director Crowley’s (Boy A) execution of Hornby’s (Wild) script adaptation. The result is a by-the-numbers romance that is mostly interesting, but it isn’t exactly memorable. The moments they’ve constructed, all of which are strong, are disconnected rather than fluid so it feels more like an overview than an immersive story.
Weakness in the story aside, the cast all deliver what they can. Saorise Ronan (Lost River) gives us a young girl who grows into a self-assured woman before our eyes.
The women in her life are a range of spinster-like side-kicks and wantons to provide her examples and guides. None really take on any life outside of their scenes, enhancing that feel of disconnected moments. In fact, few of them really stood out other than Julie Waters as her landlady/surrogate mother. The rest of the female cast weren’t bad but, with the exception of Nora-Jean Noone, none had any real story to them.
It is worth noting that there are fewer men than women in this film, which does set it a little apart from most of its fare, but they didn’t raise the bar much over the female players. Jim Broadbent (London Spy) is one of the exceptions, delivering a more unique and complete character than others in this story overall. His part is small and it is a little uncomplicated, but he manages to hint at depths around him. On the other hand, the two main males are standard cliches. Emory Cohen (Smash) and Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina) each deliver men you can believe Ronan would be attracted to, but are characters you’ve seen before; a fault of the story not the actors.
This plot has scope and production values, but never becomes more than a nice addition to the romance genre. The story is weakly executed due to the compression of the events on screen. It will entertain and probably speak to a portion of its audience, but it isn’t a great film set on its own against its competitors in the Best Film field. And thanks to that lack, the performances are also likely to be bypassed for other options as the nominations begin to roll in.