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IN SHORT: For the arthouse. Just shy of emotional sledgehammer... [Rated [R], 92 minutes]
Which we expect to see a lot of, as awards season comes crashing down. Movies with heavy emotional themes tend to raise their ugly heads and those that aren't staffed by A-list players often get lost in the shuffle. Which is why it would be wise for Fox Searchlight to trumpet the name Rupert Graves when advertising Dreaming of Joseph Lees, 'cuz all of my femme friends are ga-ga over the man. The film itself is perfect for the indie/arthouse circuit. The script is good. The performances are good and the twist that sets up the end of the tale is so emotionally sick that all us critics were muttering names of religious figures under our breaths.
But I'm saving that surprise for when you see the flick.
Set in a time when "good girls" still got married before they had sex, this being 1958 England, young Eva (Samantha Morton) is the only attractive target left in a rural town where the pickings are slim. The most forward of the young men in the town is Harry Flyte (Lee Ross), a pig farmer who wants to be the first to take her to "heaven and back." There's nothing smarmy about this; Harry has been desperately attracted to Eva since childhood. He's self-conscious about the pig smell (see last year's Waking Ned Devine for the comic take on this problem) but, prodded by sister Marie, manages to date the lovely lady. Marie, who is taking reading lessons from Eva, pushes from that side of the coin as well.
The problem is that childhood fantasy goes both ways. Eva has been dreaming of a cousin, Joseph Lees (Graves) who is a world-traveling geologist. When Lees is crippled in a mining accident, Eva's long distance concern is amplified. While the pair have no real contact, a wedding in the family and a postcard from Eva's little sister Janie (Lauren Richardson) push that fantasy closer and closer to reality.
So here's the problem: On one hand is the good looking fantasy dude. On the other is Mr. Average Guy, taking boxing lessons so he should look more masculine to his doll. Naively wanting to have her cake and eat it too, Eva brushes aside the morals of the time and moves in with Harry; all the while keeping an eye open for Joseph. Desperate love becomes desperation as Harry realizes he'll always be second fiddle to the fantasy, which comes ever closer to becoming reality. An emotional balance which was none too even goes totally out of whack. The result is really unpleasant . . .
And, no, this is not an American indie. This is a Brit flick so no one gets killed. It's worse. That should be enough of a tease.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Dreaming of Joseph Lees, he would have paid...
which is pay-per-view level for the average popcorn flick, which this is not. As far as the arthouse circuit goes, this is Dreaming of Joseph Lees is fairly middle of the game entertainment. It's not junk and it's not exceptional enough to bring average folk into the non-cineplex. If you don't frequent the arthouse, it's fine for tape view.
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