All quiet on the nostalgia front
Posh girlfriend: Tamsin Egerton
QUEEN AND COUNTRY Directed by John Boorman. Starring Callum Turner, Caleb Landry Jones, Pat Shortt, David Thewlis, Richard E Grant, Tamsin Egerton, Sinéad Cusack, David Hayman. 15A cert, gen release, 115 min Largely untouched by contemporary cinema, the dying days of National Service in the UK now seem more remote than the war that preceded them. For his very agreeable, much-delayed follow-up to Hope and Glory, John Boorman takes us back to his own time playing the Army Game.
Threat of dispatch to Korea hangs over the young trainees’ heads. We know (though they do not) that, once conscription ends, a social revolution is about to erupt.
The film begins with the most famous sequence in Hope and Glory – the children’s whooping delight when their school is bombed – and then propels us to the hero’s call-up while living idyllically on an island near Shepperton Studios.
Played with great assurance by Callum Turner, Bill Rohan finds himself cast into a world of toffs, spivs and oddballs. Pat Shortt is better than ever as the skiver who knows every route towards the quiet life. Richard E Grant is brilliantly exasperat- ed as an officer who constantly wishes himself elsewhere.
When not involved in high jinks, Bill forwards a curious relationship with a posh student (Tamsin Egerton) whose real name he seems uninterested in learning.
Queen and Country is loaded with delicious period detail – yes, people really did buy their first TV to watch the coronation – and with ruminations on the way National Service stole precious moments of youth. But, thanks to a nuanced performance by David Thewlis as an unreasonably harsh sergeant major, we also get to grips with unhappy truths about how battle traumas were cruelly disregarded in the post-war years.
For all that, Queen and Country remains a smallish film. It showcases Boorman’s great humanity, but (like Hope and Glory, for that matter) it is almost entirely free of the mild derangement that characterises his best work. We said “almost”. What on earth are we supposed to make of the positively barmy performance by Caleb Landry Jones as Bill’s posh chum? Writhing like a restless snake, grappling uneasily with the accent, the American’s turn is quite strange enough to have appeared in Boorman’s famously off-the-leash Zardoz. Take a breath, man. WEST (WESTEN) Directed by Christian Schwochow. Starring Jördis Triebel, Alexander Scheer, Tristan Göbel, Jacky Ido, Anja Antonowicz, Stefan Lampadius. Club, IFI, Dublin, 104 min Three years after the Russian father of her son dies during an academic trip to Moscow, Nelly Senff (Jordis Triebel) decides to leave East Germany for good. She’s greeted at the border by agents who stripsearch her. Arriving in West Germany, she and her son Alexej (Tristan Göbel) are given a shared apartment and food stamps. The complex is better equipped to receive refugees than some other European countries can manage three decades later.
But that does not stop Nelly from feeling resentful about the stamps she must collect to claim citizenship. One stamp