Wednesday, 30 September 2009

A Day with British Cinema

Dorian Gray

I went in with appropriately low expectations, so Dorian Gray did not disappoint. I’m not a horror fan, as I’ve said before, but gothic horror is better than most and this film had a wonderful dark gothic atmosphere (London is always good) evoked with brilliant cinematography and an excellent score. It also had a good story (of course it had Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece to work with), some excellent dialogue, tight editing and direction (Oliver Parker), and some good acting.

Colin Firth is, in my opinion, an underrated actor and he’s easily the best actor in Dorian Gray. When he was on the screen, I was being entertained. Ben Barnes, who plays Dorian, had his moments, but he has a way to go before I would call him a good actor. It was his acting and his character which were the biggest disappointments in the film. Since the story revolves around the fall of Dorian’s innocence and his soul, this is where the film needed to be convincing. It wasn’t, particularly in the last half hour of the first part of the film (before we jump ahead 25 years or so and the film picks up again). Too bad, because, as the previous paragraph suggests, in many ways the film deserved a better outcome.

The highlights of Dorian Gray, for me, were the thought-provoking dialogue, the character portrayed by Firth (Henry), and the potential to read more into the story than was actually shown. For example, how did the fact that Dorian grew up without a father influence his relationship with Henry and the subsequent fall of his soul? Lots of good discussion material here, which is always a good thing for me.

Enjoyable film that could have been better. It gets a solid ***.


Again I went in with low expectations and again I was not disappointed (low expectations really is the best way to go into a film!). Creation is a slow-moving quiet film that delves into the character of Charles Darwin in a way I would never have guessed. The result is a well-done period drama, with solid acting by Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly, a great score, and good cinematography.

The film also had some wonderful scenes about the religious struggles Darwin and his wife went through as Darwin became increasingly convinced of the soundness of his theory of evolution. But this is also where the film disappointed me. Two fellow scientists were introduced but barely heard from and Jeremy Northam was wasted as a vicar with very little dialogue. There were missed opportunities here for a much richer discussion between the scientists and between those representing science and those representing religion. I am grateful for the way it was handled (very tactfully, I think) but would have appreciated much more.

Another enjoyable and discussable film that could have been better - another solid ***.


  1. I disagree I think Ben Barnes is a fantastic actor and I think he is the only person who could have played Dorian I think he has a massive future ahead of him and of course he is the most handsome,talented actor of this time (in my opinion) I love Ben and wish him all the best in his career

  2. Thanks, Nicola. In many ways, I do think Ben was a good choice for the role of Dorian. Indeed, thinking back (all the way to yesterday), it was exactly because of his potential that I was occasionally disappointed in him. I also wish him a good career in film.