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Saturday, June 7, 2008

WATERLAND (1992)

Stephen Gyllenhaal ’s film tries to honor the elaborate continuity of Graham Swift’s acclaimed novel, but the unusual time structure doesn’t add enough to the texture of the story. Or is Gyllenhaal’s technique just not up to handling all the metaphysical time & character jumps? The basic story attempts to join Thomas Hardy back-country tragedy (lost fortune, botched abortion, doomed brother) with Terence Rattigan ’s THE BROWNING VERSION (out-of-touch teacher loses wife & position). There are some good perfs (Jeremy Irons gets a chance to work on screen with his wife, Sinead Cusack, and she’s scarifyingly fine), and some bad ones (Ethan Hawke is just too irritatingly self-regarding as a self-regarding character), but it’s refreshingly brief. Did the veddy British novel place its school in the USA?

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