Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Franklyn - Home Video Review

Release Date: February 27, 2009

Review Vital Stats:
Service: Netflix
Download Type: Instant Stream
Picture Quality: High Definition

Loves: Eva Green
Likes: Mysteries
Neutral: Ryan Phillipe
Hates: Mysteries that don't really pay off

Franklyn came to my attention as many obscure movies I see often do...because of a woman. And that woman is of course the beautiful and crazy Eva Green. If you have read any of my previous reviews or listen to the podcast you will probably be very familiar with my affinity towards certain actresses. I usually go into a movie if the story looks interesting or has a really good director attached to it, but every now and then I will see something just to see one of my favorite actresses do their thing. Well, that is how I came about watching this particular movie but I guess the real question is...is it any good?

This is a very strange film, I went into it never seeing the trailer and only going off what I had read in the synopsis on Netflix. The story revolves around four people seemingly connected in some way whom don't know each other...or do they? There is a mystery at work here but the strange thing is that it is a mystery that most, not all, the characters know the answer to. To clarify, we see these four individuals go about their lives, some of which are mundane and some are sort of out of the ordinary, but they are never really trying to figure anything out. We learn things about each of them ourselves that the characters themselves already know as they progress towards each of their destinies so to speak.

Meanwhile City
The people we meet are definitely an assorted bunch for sure with one of them apparently living in a completely different world or reality than the other three. Let's start there shall we, the very first character we meet is a man named Preest (Ryan Phillippe) who dwells in this very foreboding and Dark City like place called Meanwhile City. His story is told mostly through a very noir style voice over as we see him slowly make his way through the crowded city streets. He wears a mask made of what looks like a burlap sack with a set of large eyes that look as though they are just empty sockets.

Through his narration we learn that Meanwhile City is a haven for religions of all kinds where everyone is safe to practice any type of religion they believe in, one religion is based on the washing machine instructions on our clothes. As a matter of fact it is mandated by law that if you reside in Meanwhile you must have religion or else the police known as Clerics will haul you off to prison. Preest is a man of no religion who is on the run from the clerics as he hunts down a man he calls "The Individual" that is responsible for the murder of a young girl some years back. We follow Preest as he moves about the city looking for The Individual while evading the clerics as best he can.

Milo ponders over his life and the mysterious red head he keeps seeing.
The next person we are introduced to is Milo (Sam Riley), a sweet and innocent man who we learn has just been left by his fiance. As he goes about his daily business we get the idea that he is sort of a loner aside from one friend and his mother. Having his fiance leave has left him in this sort of melancholy state where he seems to be adrift or lost. This is when he starts seeing a mysterious red headed woman everywhere he goes and no matter how hard he tries is never able to catch her. He sees her repeatedly and begins to grow a fixation on finding out who she is and why he can't get her out of his head.

Then we meet Emilia (Eva Green), a beautiful yet extremely disturbed young woman who is an artist of some sort. We first see her in what appears to be a psychiatrist session with her mother where it is all too clear that she not only hates her mother but is mentally unstable. We don't know exactly what issue she has with her mother, but whatever it may be it is readily apparent that it hurts her deeply. Her flat is littered with unfinished paintings along with a series of monitors and recording equipment she uses for her art projects. She, like Milo, is a loner that buries herself deep into her art work and either doesn't have or want anyone to rely on. She is without a doubt the most complex character in the movie and the most interesting.

Preest looking for information on The Individual.
The final piece of the puzzle is an older man named Peter (Bernard Hill) who has just received word that he will be visited by his son very soon. We come into Peter's life just as he discovers that his son will not be able to visit him as he had hoped. He does not know what happened and for some reason is unable to contact him, so he begins to scour the city for him. We follow Peter on his pursuit and as we do we slowly start to realize that things were not all to well for his son and that he may be in some kind of trouble.

So, those are our four protagonists and the situations we find each of them in. The film plays out in a manner where we are constantly shifting from one person to the next as we learn more and more about each of their predicament. The question at the back of your mind the whole time is how all of these people are connected and how each of their stories relate to one another. It is usually fairly easy to piece together a film like this but the one red herring is the character Preest. Milo, Emilia, and Peter are all located within the city of London dealing with what appear to be real world issues where Preest is located in the fantastical city of Meanwhile where he is on a quest of revenge that seems more fitting in a super hero tale.

Emilia has some deep seeded issues.
There in lies the conundrum, how can those three characters intersect with another character which resides in what appears to be a different reality? The premise isn't anything new but it keeps you guessing and throws you clues at a pretty steady pace. As I mentioned earlier the Emilia character is the most interesting out of all four people with most of the Milo stuff only becoming slightly interesting near the end. Peter never really felt like a fully realized character to me either, he seems to be in a constant state of worry and confusion as he searches for his son so you never get a good feel for who he is other than a worried parent.

Preest is the enigma, you know there is something off about his story, his world, and his motivations. I wouldn't say he is an interesting character more as I would say he is a character in an interesting world. As mentioned before he is in this rather elaborate city setting where all the other characters are placed in a real world environment. Meanwhile City is quite literally an amazing site to behold, the architecture, the mood and atmosphere, and all the strange people found there are easily the highlight of the movie and a tremendous work of art.

Peter looking for answers that will help him find his son.
Even when Preest enters a simple tavern the art design is exquisite, and not to get too movie geeky here but the way the lighting and how each shot is set up is impressive. There were times that I almost wished the entire movie took place in Meanwhile City because each time the film cuts back to one of the other three characters we are brought back to a drab and plain looking city. In a way, having the Preest storyline criss cross with the others does a disservice to both worlds. The London that Milo, Emilia, and Peter are in is beautiful in its own right but cannot hold a candle to the imagination on display when we are following Preest. Picture a movie that would cut between the world of Dark City with the world of The Social Network...it just isn't fair.

There is one element though that does justice to both realities and that is the musical score provided by Joby Talbot. After watching the movie I went and purchased it immediately, it evokes Danny Elfman but doesn't exactly feel like any of his work. All I can say is that when you have music this hauntingly beautiful combined with the visual treat of Meanwhile City it is pure cinema bliss. I mean let's face it, movies are a visual and auditory medium and this movie nails both perfectly. I would easily recommend this soundtrack to any fan of Elfman's even if they had no intention of ever seeing the movie, its that good.

Stunning architecture like this is rampant throughout Meanwhile City.
So far I may seem somewhat split on the film and that assumption would be correct. I found certain aspects of it to be enthralling where as other aspects seemed to not really amount to much. If you don't want anything ruined about the ending then skip this next part. The climax of the film where all four of our characters finally meet up leaves a lot to be desired. The revelation of who Preest is and what he has been trying to accomplish makes sense but it is very anti-climatic. The same goes for Milo and Peter to a certain extent, the amount of time we spent leading up to this point didn't seem worth it and quite honestly I saw it all coming a mile away. The only real character I felt anything for was Emilia because she seemed to be the only one who learned or got anything out of the ordeal. And that is my main problem with the movie, the ending doesn't justify everything we just sat through.

This is a beautiful movie to watch, every frame of every scene is engaging even though not everything in that frame is usually. Meanwhile City is breathtaking in its design and I could almost recommend the film based solely on that, but in the end I still feel empty from it all. When we are asked to sit through a film and follow four distinct characters you expect to become wrapped up in their lives and care about them. With the exception of Emilia that never happened for me. I suppose if you are looking for some good eye candy along with a semi-interesting mystery you could do worse. Just don't go in expecting anything special, because despite the build up with the Preest character, it never really goes anywhere and when you have a film that bases itself on the hook of these four characters entering each others lives as the climax...well...you kind of want it to lead to something interesting.


Franklyn [Blu-ray]


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