Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) converses with her father Erik Keller (Eric Bana) in Teutonic accents and commits to combat training from him in the forests somewhere in the immediate south of the Arctic. Telling her father that she’s ‘ready,’ and tiring of the isolation that Erik has inadvertently put her, she flicks a switch that emits a signal so her hunter, agent Marissa Viegler (Cate Blanchett), can ‘find her.’ He flees, she gets captured, she escapes and finds herself on a rocky desert and meets a British faux chavette her age named Sophie (Jessica Barden), who suddenly prattles on about God knows what.
I highlight this part of Hanna’s journey just to say that I love Jessica Barden, who seems like a cherub in the trailer but she plays a precocious character as she did in Tamara Drewe. And she almost steals the show from Ronan, as she talks about MIA and other topics in breakneck speed, without caring if Hanna can understand her. She’s the comic relief with her bodily non sequiturs. But when it comes down to it, watching the latter kill full-grown men, she stands paralyzed, teary-eyed, knowing that she cannot copy what her new-found friend is doing in front of her.
Both girls are worldly in their own way, Hanna through the encyclopedias and languages that her father teaches her, Sophie by actually visiting [laces and immersing herself through the culture. One complements the other. What, then, does the film say about teenage girls’ relationships with each other and the overwhelming possibilities of the outside world? Or the independent, free-love parenting that Sophie’s mother (Olivia Williams) tries as an experiment towards her daughter, who probably isn’t turning out to be what the former exactly wanted? Or the dangers of the outside world that they have to face?
But it doesn’t need to think about those things while it’s offering to show us parts of the world. Hanna breaks a Fake Marissa’s neck and takes out armed guards, escaping a CIA prison facility. She beats up guys on a pier while loaders are driving around her. CIA operatives surround Erik in a Berlin U-Bahn – he kills them all, the audience applauds. Hanna combines snowy forests, Northern African country and city, Germany’s inner-city and abandoned amusement parks. But director Joe Wright, a trickster with his long takes and spinning cameras, doesn’t shoot those locales and the actors filling them with any slow-paced art film pretension. There’s wilfulness in making’ this mainstream action film, these locations thus making the movie more real.
That doesn’t mean that the film is just 110-something minutes of limbs hitting bodies, as it shows the character’s pain and its psychological effect as the outside world, intentionally or otherwise, attacks. Hanna ironically becomes overwhelmed by the stimuli of household appliances of a cheap, Moroccan hotel. Marissa uses one of her electric toothbrushes until her teeth bleed.
Marisa hires an assassin (Tom Hollander) to find her, but when that doesn’t work, these fractured women – Marissa can also be seen as Hanna’s other mirror/double – eventually meet and know that their survival depends on ensuring the other’s death. 4/5
Loosely based on Thomas Hardy’s “Far from the Madding Crowd,” ‘Tamara Drewe’ isn’t that visually interesting. The blue-tinted flashbacks compared to present day warm hues, the non-split screen between characters. Those two things don’t seem groundbreaking at all. The film’s first thirty-five minutes merely introduces the characters. The titular character (Gemma Arterton), a swan of a journalist back in town with a new nose job. She also owns a house that is originally owned by the working class Andy (Luke Evans). Two teenagers, Jody (Jessica Barden) and the other one, read gossip magazines. A mix of novelists, Glen (Bill Camp) and Nicholas (Roger Allam) stay at a country house and rock stars like Ben (Dominic Cooper) and muscular help. Like the source material, Tamara scandalously has relationships between two men who are wrong for her while the right, gruff one, in the case Andy, is waiting to become the third.
Before we get to that inevitable end, there are a lot of subplots and minor characters colouring the film. Jody spies on Tamara and disapproves of the latter’s relationship with Ben, hilariously saying ‘She can’t love him. I’ve loved him since March.’ That’s when the film really begins. The film’s style of comedy isn’t selling Britishness and is more universal. We have campy adolescent humour. We have Nicholas, an otherwise successful crime novelist and his physical output on the frustration of his old life and a new life he can’t have. Glen also has a few quips delivered so subtly that it took me fourteen hours to realize that they were poop jokes.
I do feel ambivalent about the film’s understanding of love – I hinted about this already in the first paragraph. On one perspective, love is a step higher than friendship. One’s words of approval sparks the other’s love even if this other person isn’t filmed to have that eureka ‘I love her’ moment. Tamara trusts Andy on what to do with ‘her’ house. Nicholas’ wife Beth (Tamsin Grieg) tells the dejected Glen that if he writes the way he talks about Thomas Hardy, it makes the man more interesting. Another thing about those encounters is that the women ave the upper hand without purposely asserting it, and their words are given more attention to than the men’s reactions. On the other hand, the film lets the characters end up with their true loves and wants the audience to believe this should work because they have been badly matched with others.
Nonetheless, the films’ funny and engaging, moreso than the ‘epic’ Julie Christie film in the 60’s. Although Alan Bates‘ character seems more like a realistic cute-enough working class man than Andy, who looks like less embarrassing version of Fabio. I take the lot of good with the bad.
- ‘Tamara Drewe’: Screen version is flatter than original graphic novel (seattletimes.nwsource.com)