SEC­OND SCREEN

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - FILM - Matthew Bond

Woody Har­rel­son has gar­nered only two Os­car nom­i­na­tions in his 30-year ca­reer and while it’s too early in the warm-up to awards sea­son to have any real idea of his chances of land­ing a third, The Glass

Cas­tle (12A) ★★★★ cer­tainly pro­vides a timely re­minder that, on his day, he can be very good in­deed.

Based (fairly loosely) on the bestselling mem­oir by the Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist Jeanette Walls, the film sees Har­rel­son play­ing Rex Walls, a volatile free-spirit who doesn’t want to be told what to do by any­body. His four young chil­dren don’t go to school, he moves end­lessly from job to job, and the fam­ily’s reg­u­lar moon­lit flits al­ways keep them one step ahead of the bailiffs. He’s a charis­matic force of chaos but, un­for­tu­nately for Jeanette and her long-suf­fer­ing sib­lings, he’s also a nar­cis­sist and a drunk. And their hip­pie-dip­pie, artis­tic mother, Rose (Naomi Watts), is no help – she’d pre­fer to paint than cook and thinks her hus­band, with his ro­man­tic daydream of build­ing a glass cas­tle for them all, is a ge­nius. There are dis­tinct echoes here of Cap­tain Fan­tas­tic, another re­cent por­trait of un­con­ven­tional, off-the-grid fam­ily life, and of Esther Freud’s Hideous Kinky too. But the ex­e­cu­tion is very im­pres­sive, de­spite the rel­a­tive in­ex­pe­ri­ence of di­rec­tor Destin Daniel Cret­ton. A deeply sen­ti­men­tal end­ing, how­ever, does feel like a let-down. The Moun­tain Be­tween Us (12A) ★★ is hard to warm to, partly be­cause much of the ac­tion is set in a freez­ing moun­tain­ous wilder­ness and partly be­cause it’s reg­u­larly too con­trived and clunky for its own good. And that’s be­fore we get to one of the most long-winded end­ings in film his­tory.

Sav­ing it from com­plete dis­as­ter are Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, the for­mer play­ing an Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist and the lat­ter, rather less con­vinc­ingly, a Bri­tish neu­ro­sur­geon. When they bump into each other at the air­port, she ab­so­lutely has to get to New York to get mar­ried while he’s due in Bal­ti­more for an emer­gency op­er­a­tion. But there’s a big storm a-comin’ and all flights are can­celled. So why on earth would any­one think it was a good idea to char­ter a small plane flown by a Viet­nam vet­eran who’s got ‘heart at­tack’ or ‘stroke’ writ­ten all over his face?

Lit­tle re­ally rings true here, once the in­evitable has hap­pened. Their sur­vival feels too easy, their good looks never dis­ap­pear, and Winslet and Elba both wear the ex­pres­sions of ac­tors who know they will make bet­ter films than this.

Kate Winslet and Idris Elba in The Moun­tain Be­tween Us

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