The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

PAOLO Sor­rentino’s film — a French-Ital­ian-Ir­ish co-pro­duc­tion — is called This Must Be the Place (Mon­day, 10pm, M Pre­miere). And yes, this must be Sean Penn, though you’d never know. He plays Cheyenne, an Amer­i­can rock star liv­ing in re­tire­ment in Dublin, and dom­i­nat­ing ev­ery scene is the haunting im­age of Penn’s face be­hind lay­ers of hideous make-up: chalk-white fea­tures, dark eye­liner, prom­i­nent shades and masses of un­ruly hair.

Cheyenne’s life is changed when he learns that his dy­ing fa­ther, a sur­vivor of the Nazi death camps, was sin­gled out for spe­cial hu­mil­i­a­tion at Auschwitz by a par­tic­u­lar SS guard, who may still be alive and liv­ing in the US. Cheyenne sets out on a cross-coun­try odyssey in search of his fa­ther’s tor­men­tor. The fi­nal scenes are in the na­ture of fan­tasy, a parable of re­demp­tion, un­for­get­table for Penn’s ex­tra­or­di­nary per­for­mance. All se­ri­ously weird, and strangely beau­ti­ful.

Why is it that the best films are of­ten the most mis­er­able? Here are two heartrend­ing sto­ries, both star­ring Emily Wat­son. An­gela’s Ashes (Sun­day, 9.35am, M Drama/Ro­mance), based on Frank McCourt’s au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal novel, is about an im­pov­er­ished Ir­ish fam­ily whom we first en­counter in a room full of bawl­ing, hun­gry chil­dren in a Brook­lyn ten­e­ment. An­gela (Wat­son) is giv­ing birth to a daugh­ter; within a few days the baby is dead and the fa­ther (Robert Car­lyle) is on an­other of his drink­ing bouts. Back in Ire­land, things are no bet­ter. You have to be pretty hun­gry to lick the grease from some­one’s dis­carded fish wrap­per.

In Jim Loach’s Or­anges and Sun­shine (Satur­day, 10.10am, M Mas­ter­piece), Wat­son plays Mar­garet Humphreys, the Bri­tish so­cial worker who did much to ex­pose the forced de­por­ta­tion to Aus­tralia of thou­sands of Bri­tish chil­dren in care. Chil­dren were sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies; broth­ers and sis­ters parted on ar­rival. Much of the film is told through the mem­o­ries of two vic­tims, played as adults by Hugo Weav­ing and David Wen­ham. But it’s Wat­son’s luminous per­for­mance that car­ries the film. Her pres­ence is a re­minder that many de­ported chil­dren were es­cap­ing the same crush­ing poverty the McCourt fam­ily en­dured.

This week’s other sad and beau­ti­ful film is The Deep Blue Sea (Tues­day, noon, M Pre­miere), Ter­ence Davies’s adap­ta­tion of Ter­ence Rattigan’s play about sex­ual vul­ner­a­bil­ity and the per­ils of thought­less pas­sion. Hester (Rachel Weisz) is the dis­sat­is­fied wife of a Bri­tish judge, whose em­i­nently re­spectable (and child­less) mar­riage is shat­tered when she meets Fred­die (Tom Hid­dle­ston), a for­mer RAF pilot, and they be­gin a pas­sion­ate af­fair — though it’s clear Hester’s pas­sions run deeper than Fred­die’s. Weisz gives a search­ing study of folly and in­fat­u­a­tion, beau­ti­fully nu­anced and in­fin­itely touch­ing.

Critic’s choice

(M) ★★★★✩ Mon­day, 10pm, M Pre­miere

(M) ★★★ Satur­day, 10.10am, M Mas­ter­piece

(M) ★★★★ Tues­day, noon, M Pre­miere

The Deep Blue Sea

Rachel Weisz in

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