I’M sure how many filmgoers had read Yann Martel’s novel before seeing Life of Pi, but the film proved a huge hit over the holidays thanks largely, I would guess, to that great publicity shot of the boy in a boat with a tiger. What family audience could resist? In Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo (Wednesday, 6.30pm, M Family), we get not only a tiger but also lions, bears — a whole menagerie — not to mention a quietly engaging Matt Damon. He plays a Los Angeles journalist who quits his job after the death of his wife, sells his home and moves with his two children into a dilapidated old house with a private zoo. Excellent performances from both the two-legged and four-legged casts, with Scarlett Johansson making a beautiful zookeeper. Crowe’s film is based on a memoir by a British journalist, Benjamin Mee, who restored a rundown private zoo and reopened it with his family in 2007.
If your chief impressions of Keira Knightley were shaped by, say, Pride and Prejudice and Pirates of the Caribbean, you may find her performance as Sabina Spielrein in A Dangerous Method (Wednesday, 8.30pm, M Premiere) little short of terrifying. Spielrein was a Russian Jewish woman who was cured by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung of a serious mental disorder (and went on to become his mistress and clerical assistant). At our first sight of Spielrein she is being dragged into Jung’s consulting room, convulsive and hysterical, her features horribly distorted with rage and fear. Under analysis, it emerges that she was regularly beaten by her father, a traumatic (and sexually arousing) experience that Jung treats by administering beatings of his own — a dangerous method frowned on by his mentor Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. David Cronenberg’s absorbing film (from a Christopher Hampton play) is about the relationship of Freud and Jung (superbly played by Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender, respectively). Cronenberg leaves us with some troubling reflections on psychiatry and the global insanity that led to World War I.
Never Let Me Go (Monday, 5pm, M Masterpiece) is a haunting film from director Mark Romanek from Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel. Kathy (Carey Mulligan) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield) have been raised in an institution, where they discover, quite early in the film, that they have been cloned for their body parts, which at some stage will be donated for medical purposes. The story touches us more deeply because the young people accept their fate as a natural, perhaps a noble, destiny. Even when they are grown up and making their first
donations’’, none of them thinks of hiding or running away or breaking their story to the outside world. For Kathy and Tommy there is no outside world.
(M) ★★★ ✩ Monday, 5pm, M Masterpiece
(MA15+) ★★★★✩ Wednesday, 8.30pm, M Premiere
(PG) ★★★✩✩ Wednesday, 6.30pm, M Family