Paul Morrison, 2004, UK, 106 mins
Sam Smith, Delroy Lindo, Emily Woof, Stanley Townsend
You don't need to understand the innings and outs of cricket to enjoy Wondrous Oblivion, but it probably helps.
Eleven-year-old David Wiseman is mad about cricket, but while he has all of the kit, he has none of the skill. A laughing stock at school, David is spurned by the team and relegated to scorer. When a cricket-mad Jamaican family move in next door - and immediately hoist a cricket net in the back garden -things start looking up.
But this is 1960s England, when the street would prefer 'nice, respectable' (read 'white, English') neighbours. As a Jewish family still smarting from their escape from Hitler's Germany , the Wisemans, and David in particular, find they need to make a choice between cricket whites and a more colourful, integrated future.
David's father is too busy working to teach his son about cricket, so it isn't long before David (Sam Smith, the BBC's Oliver) is clambering over the wall to be taught by Dennis Samuels (Delroy Lindo, Gone In Sixty Seconds). But the racial tension of the South London streets prompts a move by the Wiseman's to more refined Hendon, and David is in danger of losing his first genuine friendship. Can he forsake his childish 'oblivion', and wise up to the real world?
Director Paul Morrison (Solomon and Gaenor) plays the immigrant card to interesting effect, juxtaposing a Jewish family who want to fit in against the effervescent black family who move in next door. Father Victor (Stanley Townsend, My Friend Joe) understands what it's like to be persecuted, but other neighbours threaten violence against him if he doesn't "get rid of the darkies".
Where the film jars, however, is in the family-drama lightness of this particular immigrant story. Morrison has chosen to not show in more detail (at least not until the final credits) the large-scale racial violence happening in London at this time. The happy ending is a little too easy, and Victor's judgement on the shame of the neighbourhood may have you squirming in your seat.
Visually, Morrison's story is a treat. The carefully chosen colour palette brings to this film all the vivid garishness of the 1950s and 60s Dick and Jane books, as do the carefully researched and authentic clothes and furnishings. The bouncy ska soundtrack adds to the hyper-real experience, and you may leave feeling you've been out all night at a dancehall and drunk too much moonshine. The sumptuous look of the film is one of its successes - the reach-out-and-touch factor is high, and the blend between studio scenes and archive footage is outstanding. Wondrous Oblivion is richly shot, and with all the photo-magic and feelgood of Amelie.