Dirs. Neil Hunter / Tom Hunsinger, UK, 2007, 104 mins
Cast: Stockard Channing, Shaun Evans, Lesley Manville, Bob Hoskins
Review by Carol Allen
Back in 2001 writer/director team Hunter and Hunsinger had a big critical success with their second collaboration Lawless Heart, a totally delightful film which told the interlinked stories of a group of people brought together by the death of their gay restaurateur friend. There are two reasons why it's taken so long for their next film to see the light of day. In creating their stories the team uses a time consuming technique similar to Mike Leigh's in that the characters are created through improvisations with the actors, out of which the plot is built. The second reason is the amount of time it takes to raise the money for any film in the UK , let alone one using an unorthodox approach.
Despite its title this one doesn't sparkle quite as much as that previous film, but it does have many of its positive qualities. Hunter and Hunsinger in collaboration with their actors have a talent for creating really believable and engaging characters, who are recognizable, warm, flawed and with whom we can identify, and then putting them together in a satisfying ensemble story. This one centres round Sam (Evans), an ambitious young man who seizes his opportunity to get to London , when offered a flat by Vince (Hoskins). Much to his chagrin however his mother Jill (Manville) insists on coming too, though Vince, who lives in the flat above and who secretly fancies Jill but is too shy to say anything, is delighted. Through Vince's bullish businessman brother Bernie (John Shrapnel), Sam gets a job with a catering firm and when waitering at a smart party he meets Sheila (Channing), a high powered PR with her own company. They hit it off, go to bed together and he persuades her to take him on as her assistant. He then meets the much younger Kate (Amanda Ryan) and falls for her. But what he doesn't know is that Kate is Sheila's estranged daughter.
The centre of the story is the young couple and while Evans gives Sam a lot of charm, he is also victim to the arrogance of youth, particularly in the cruel way he dismisses his mother's dream of becoming a professional singer, even though she's 40 plus, while Kate tends to be a bit of a self centred little madam at times, although she does eventually win us over. It is the adults who tend to capture one's affections. Channing is excellent as Sheila, a sophisticated woman with a deep loneliness inside, a wary look, killer heels and a state of the art kitchen that is innocent of food, while Manville scores high marks as Jill, whose ambition age cannot wither. She sings her own songs in the sequences where she's performing in the pubs and clubs and has a good voice, while the stuttering relationship between her and the love lorn Vince is sweet and totally believable. There's another touching relationship between Sheila and her long time lover Bernie, who is married and may or may not be Kate's father, and sympathetic support from Anthony Head as Kate's gay uncle/surrogate father and Richard Cant as his partner.