It’s anything but predictable: The Lost Daughter boasts heaps of atmosphere, brilliant casting and an outstanding performance from Olivia Colman
The Lost Daughter Cert: 15, 2hrs 1min
The Tender Bar Cert: 15, 1hr 44mins
Spider-Man: No Way Home Cert: 12A, 2hrs 28mins
Nine Days Cert: 15, 2hrs 4mins
As an actress, Maggie Gyllenhaal has always displayed an admirable fearlessness, happy to take on the sort of roles that other Hollywood A-listers might well decline.
From playing a young employee exploring a sado-masochist relationship in Secretary to a teacher in the grip of a terrifying midlife crisis in The Kindergarten Teacher, Gyllenhaal has always been prepared to go where others would not.
Now she displays similar creative courage as she steps behind the camera for the first time as adapter (of an Elena Ferrante novel) and director of The Lost Daughter.
The Lost Daughter, starring Olivia Colman and Dakota Johnson (above), is a complex story told with few words but heaps of atmosphere and tension
As we watch Olivia Colman playing a short-tempered, socially clumsy academic struggling to enjoy a solitary Mediterranean beach holiday, we have a fair idea of where we might be heading.
Especially once Leda (Colman) starts casting a disapproving eye towards a pretty young mother (Dakota Johnson) and her clingy, doll-loving daughter.
But not so fast – the likes of Gyllenhaal and Colman don’t do predictable.
Colman muddies the narrative waters with a performance of quiet intensity and constant surprises, and she gets fabulous support from an exquisitely cast Jessie Buckley, playing a younger Leda in flashback.
Gyllenhaal does an impressive job of telling a complex story with few words but heaps of atmosphere and tension. Disturbing but highly effective.
For an enjoyable hour, it seems that George Clooney might enjoy similar success with The Tender Bar, the latest film he chooses to direct rather than star in.
It tells the story of J. R., the young son of a much disappointed single mum and absentee father who finds solace and sanctuary, not just in the domestic chaos of his grumpy grandfather’s noisily crowded house but also in the wisdom of his Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck) and the kindness of the customers at his book-lined bar.
Clooney draws lovely performances from his ensemble cast (Affleck is superb, and look out for Christopher Lloyd as J. R.’s grandfather) but it’s a film that runs out of energy as adulthood approaches and a distinctly underwhelming journalistic memoir takes over.
Great corduroy jackets, though.
Having been publicly identified as Spider-Man by Mysterio at the end of Far From Home, Spider-Man: No Way Home sees 17-year-old Peter Parker (Tom Holland) trying to sort out the whole sorry mess.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is moving and touching enough to send emotional fans out on to the streets feeling they’ve seen something important. Zendaya and Tom Holland (above) star
But when he turns to fellow Avenger Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help, a powerful spell goes wrong and suddenly all sort of enemies start tumbling out of Spider-Man’s past.
Except the likes of Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) and Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) aren’t exactly from this Spider-Man’s past, are they?
What ensues – at least after some initial sluggishness – is clever, ambitious and hugely spectacular.
But it’s also moving and touching enough to send emotional franchise fans out on to the streets feeling they’ve seen something important… and no doubt very expensive too.
Remember Soul? Well, Nine Days is a bit like that except live-action and with adult human souls being given nine days to convince a methodical but emotionally distracted interviewer (Winston Duke) that they should be selected to be born and experience real life.
It’s strange, stylised and a little slow, but surprisingly profound on what it takes to live a life properly.