Release Date: May 12th, 2006 by Samuel Goldwyn Films.
The Cast: Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson, Nicholas Hoult, Emily Watson, Julie Walters, Celia Imrie, Julian Wadham, Zach Fox.
Directed by Richard E. Grant.
BASIC PREMISE: During the 1960’s, Ralph (Hoult) comes-of-age while living with his alcoholic father (Byrne) in Swaziland, South Africa.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Every single actor and actress gets their moment to shine in this absorbing drama. At the age of 12, Ralph (played by Zach Fox) witnesses his parents separating after his mother, Lauren (Richardson), cheats on his father, Harry. Two years later, Ralph lives with Harry who marries his second wife, Ruby (Watson); however, the only thing he loves at this time seems to be alcohol. The film is told through Ralph’s perspective as he his father verbally and physically abuses him at night, but forgets about everything during the day. Soon enough, Harry’s first wife returns and that’s when the conflicts really start to arise, especially for poor Ralph. What could have turned into a dull soap-opera instead feels so realistic and lively thanks to strong, convincing performances particularly from Gabriel Byrne, who masters the complex role of Harry. Likewise, Nicholas Hoult, who played in About a Boy, gives a charming performance here as the teenage version of Ralph. Both Julie Walters and Celia Imrie light up the screen in their small roles—although it would have been nice to see more of the dazzling Julie Walters. As both the writer and director, Richard E. Grant breathes life into every scene so that not a minute feels unbelievable or contrived, especially because it is so easy to care and to sympathize with Ralph from beginning to end.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Throughout his teenage years, Ralph goes through a lot and observes the true horrors of life at too young of an age. The psychological impact that his father’s abuse has on him is very heartbreaking and depressing. Fortunately, the way Ralph eventually deals with his father’s dangerous problem feels deeply moving and inspirational without being even remotely sappy.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: A deeply moving indie gem! Gabriel Byrne gives a terrific performance! A must-see!
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
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