SLIFF 2010 Review: BOMBER
Review by Dane Marti
Directed by Paul Cotter, this U.K./U.S. co-production is possibly my favorite of the recent films I’ve seen for the festival: BOMBER reminds me of the great Ealing films of the postwar 1940’s and 1950’s British films that were done with such skill, such cunning and such undeniable precision to craft that it often made the yank’s Hollywood work of the same period appear gaudy by comparison. Ealing did such quality work as the inspired genius of ‘Kind Heart and Coronets,’ ‘The Lavender Hill Mob’ ‘The Man in the White Suit’ and the original ‘Ladykillers,’ among many other great works.
Like, THE END, the Hungarian film that I recently enjoyed, this clever flick also deals with an elderly couple. Is something in the water? Are the elderly the next Big Thing in cinematic entertainment? Move over Justin Timberlake! Yep, that’s correct, kiddies: I’m talking about OLD PEOPLE. And they can act, too. In particular, the old gentleman at the center of this poignant film: His name is Alistar (played with subtle honesty by Benjamin Whitrow).
Now let me explain this first off: years ago I wouldn’t have appreciated this work. Oh, I would have seen it and smirked, but… I wanted youthful, underground, grungy, in-your-face power cinema. However, now that I’m in my latter — ancient — 40’s, this film’s winningly simple subject matter has taken on a bountiful new amount of relevance, what with my own folks getting up in years themselves. Anyway, it’s great to see films dealing with people — married people — in the autumn of their years. And these are definitely not films that withhold blemishes…
So… an elderly man has his own private bucket list the things he has longed to do before he shuffled off the earth. He wants to visit Germany and resolve some ‘issues’ from his distant past — a past that everyone under the age of 60 seems determined to forget. He is quiet and reserved, a man from ‘the Greatest Generation’. He speaks “The king’s English.” He reminds me a little bit of my father. His wife (with facial expressions that convey so much frustration and compassion, is played by Eileen Nicholas — of ‘Trainspotting”) has much the same temperament as her husband. Well… she is more compassionate and open, but she stands by her husband. She is the rock behind the throne, if this simple man could be considered a king. Their ‘arty’ son (Shane Taylor — amazingly sensitive and over-expressive. He was excellent in ‘Band of Brothers’) is the compassionate, modern product of Art College, but with no job whatsoever. Near the start of this semi-humorous film, his girlfriend of a year and two months breaks up with him. I love films that demonstrate conflicts, the type that happen in every family’s lives. The storyline doesn’t appear forced, only honest in its cinematic intentions.
In keeping with the sub-genre of The Road Movie, the elderly couple — with their hapless son in tow — leave England on a trip through Europe. Everything in the movie is down with style and substance. It is also very funny, but understated. Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks and Monty Python exempted, I really do appreciate situational comedies in which the humor is a direct outgrowth of the characters and story. Still, I’m not giving up The Marx Brothers! Nope.
This is a beautiful film in every way: professionally shot with slick precision, with excellent location photography of Europe and just the rights touch of humor. I especially loved the small roads the British Family traveled through on their misadventures: for instance, the wonderful, old trees stationed closely along the small roadways like white-barked sentinels. Nothing in the film is completely wrapped up in a neon bow by the conclusion of BOMBER, but you do get a feeling that the small cracks within this families’ relationship might take a turn for the better. Let’s hope — I really liked these people.
BOMBER will play during the 19th Annual Stella Artois St. Louis International Film Festival on Friday, November 12th at 4:30 pm and Sunday, November 14th at 9:15 pm at Plaza Frontenac Cinema.