Blade Runner 2049 The Glass Castle Return to Montauk
If Blade Runner (1982) offered a singular vision of a bleak and pitiless future,
Blade Runner 2049 (15A) is darker still. Struggling to recover from a global systems failure in the 2020s, the greater Los Angeles area now resembles a postapocalyptic world, the once dazzling cityscape now a dim, flickering shadow of its former self. Some things never change, however: K (Ryan Gosling) is a blade runner, a humanoid replicant charged with hunting down malfunctioning examples of his own kind and ‘retiring’ them. During a routine operation, however, K unwittingly uncovers a potentially world-shattering secret … Written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, and directed by Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049 is – on first viewing, at least – that rare beast, a sequel to a classic film that is as innovative as its source material. Villeneuve has assembled a fine cast, which includes Robin Wright as K’s hardbitten superior Lieutenant Joshi, Jared Leto as the deranged villain Niander Wallace, Ana de Armas in a poignant turn as the hologram Joi, Sylvia Hoeks in the memorably striking role of Wallace’s enforcer Luv, and Harrison Ford reprising his role as the original blade runner, Deckard, but the real joy here is in the combination of Dennis Gassner’s fabulous production design and Roger Deakin’s jaw-dropping cinematography. Ryan Gosling’s K is suitably monosyllabic, cynical and, yes, Kafkaesque as he wanders the sci-fi wasteland, and Gosling delivers a compelling performance as a doomed neo-noir protagonist. Time and again, however, the eye drifts away from the central figure to drink in the epic exteriors, which are saturated in gloriously sombre shades that deliver a depth of field that is vividly, almost impossibly, lush. The effect is that of an hallucinatory fever dream, a kind of visual delirium in which the audience is never sure which of the story’s characters – replicants, holograms and doublecrossing humans – are truly real, or only hyper-real. The sensory overload can become overwhelming at times, and Hans Zimmer’s variation on Vangelis’s classic score is more obtrusive than it needs to be, but for the most part Blade Runner 2049 is a gorgeous, stunning sci-fi epic that does full justice to the original. Philip K. Dick would have approved. Adapted from Jeannette Walls’s account of her unorthodox upbringing, The Glass
Castle (12A) opens in Manhattan in 1989, with Jeannette (Brie Larson) working as a gossip columnist and engaged to financier David (Max Greenfield). Her glamorous life is sharply contrasted with her childhood, however: as the story flashes back, we discover that the Walls were a nomadic family, driving the length and breadth of America as Jeannette’s father, Rex (Woody Harrelson), propounds his theories on living free, which in practical terms involves Rex drinking his liver into a coma while his wife Rose Mary (Naomi Watts) and their children endure grinding poverty. Woody Harrelson puts in a strong performance as the cornpone philosopher and alternative lifestyle advocate, and Ella Anderson is heartbreakingly affecting as the young Jeannette, as the story attempts to make sense of the complex relationship between father and daughter. Unfortunately, the excellent Naomi Watts is given very little to do, with Rose Mary portrayed as a naïve ex-hippy whose failure as a mother is matched only by her lack of talent with a paintbrush in her hand. Director Destin Daniel Cretton crafts his film in such a way as to suggest that the home-schooled Jeannette and her siblings graduated with honours from the university of hard knocks, but it’s difficult to view the film in any other way than as an extended account of horrific neglect and emotional abuse.
Written by Colm Tóibín and directed by Volker Schlöndorff, Return to Montauk
(15A) centres on aging author Max Zorn (Stellan Skarsgård), who returns to New York after a long absence to publish his new novel, and who craves a reunion with his old flame Rebecca (Nina Hoss), despite being in a long-term relationship with Clara (Susanna Wolff). The tone is wryly wistful throughout but the film is excessively stagey, with Max apparently trapped between being the author of his new book and playing the part of the love-lorn author within its pages. Understandably, given the set-up, much of the plot evolves by way of dialogue, but Max – despite the best efforts of the very fine Stellan Skarsgård – comes on like a parody of the neurotic, self-obsessed writer. The women are more nuanced, and far more believable, with Nina Hoss and Susanna Wolff turning in excellent performances as worldweary women enduring Max’s delusions about himself as a Man Who Understands Women.