Thursday, April 8, 2010

Glorious 39 by Stephen Poliakoff (2009)


I have to tell you, I was a bit disgruntled early into the film because, without spoiling anything for those of who will see this film, an actor I adore was gone in the first 23 minutes.

Crap.
His part was short, but it was passionate and well worth the top billing his name got. As for the film, it takes a while to find its feet. I was not sure for a while what kind of movie it was and actually, that is more than okay with me.

To be honest, if I’m not sure if I’m going to be watching a love story or a political drama or a mystery or maybe even a ghost story, it enhances the entire experience and I went into this film completely cold.

Glorious 39 debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in September and it kind of slipped under the radar. I understand why. It’s the kind of film that quietly seeps into you.

I didn’t even know I was being affected by it until it was almost over and I wasn’t sure it was memorable until a week later I realized that I’d thought about it every day since I saw it.

The film opens with an ultimately dispensable bookmark. It’s an ominous introduction featuring Christopher Lee recalling the story of a girl who was lost long ago, before the war.

As the story unfolds, the turns it takes are gradual. It seems innocent on the surface, but it isn’t too long before there’s a menacing quality just under its skin.

By the time our heroine, Anne hears the menacing recording of poor Hector, presumably murdered Parliament member and foe of Neville Chamberlain screaming for mercy from God knows what, we are duly and properly unsettled.

As the conspiracy grows, Anne’s family members very gradually grow more menacing.

For those Doctor Who fans out there, if you remember Human Nature & Family of Blood, Anne’s siblings take on a very ‘mother-of-mine,’ ‘sister-of-mine’ quality to them. Especially her brother, Ralph.

I don’t want to give too much away because I want everyone who reads this to seek this film out and watch it. As far as political thrillers go, you really can’t do any better than this one. It works in so many ways.

There’s a sequence that revolves around taking pets in to be euthanized. Putting the family cats down is incidental to the plot.

It’s the other things happening around them at the time that are critical to the story, but that whole atmosphere of calm, tranquil death is just so terrible and peaceful at the same time. When we see the bodies of the animals being heaped onto pyres, it hardly seems awful.

That’s the kind of lull this film draws you into and then jolts you out of.

Truly, I don’t want to give away any more except to say that you will be disappointed by the ending bookmark, so be prepared for that.

But the end of the story itself is perfect. The revelations are timed beautifully and never feel manufactured even for a moment.

Each trust and each betrayal is genuine and painful. And the one final mercy shown in the film truly feels precious.

So, fans of the Doctor, seek out this film because you miss David Tennant. That’s why I got it. But then find yourself absorbed in one of those rare films that works as a character study, a theme and a narrative.

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