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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, April 24, 2014 - Edition No 894 

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DREAMING OF JOSEPH LEES

SYNOPSIS:
Eva (Samantha Morton) has a boring life in 1950's rural England, where the big entertainment is the local boxing matches and the local boys are of little interest. Her escape is dreaming about her second cousin, Joseph Lees (Rupert Graves), who has managed to flee the drudgery, even though he lost a leg along the way. Giving up hope on Joseph, Eva succumbs to the seduction of local pig farmer, Harry (Lee Ross) and decides to move in with him. A family wedding reunites Eva with Joseph; a simple dance reigniting her passion for him. Compelled to leave Harry for the man of herdreams, Eva is forced to choose between the two when Harry resorts to extreme measures to win her back.

"What a stunning film. Initially it seems that it's going to be one of those slow, tedious pieces examining a harmless crush. Then, whammo. The seemingly simple is complex and the seemingly complex is simple but no less messy. First time feature director, Eric Styles has certainly benefited from his documentary background in letting this simple but devastating story tell itself. He clearly understands people and the true consequences of the choices they make, and what is seen and what is hidden. Remarkably though, for a former documentary director, his casting and direction is superb. Each actor brings a clear truth to their character. There are no histrionics here, even though first time screenwriter Catherine Linstum's script could well have allowed such an approach. Samantha Morton, in the lead, certainly is a bright new star on the horizon. Equally impressive is Lee Ross in the emotionally difficult role of Harry. Ross must show us emotional opposites within the one character, slowly revealing the life underneath. The rest of the cast is up to the task in an impressive ensemble turn. Set in Somerset in 1958, Dreaming of Joseph Lees' attention to detail is indeed thorough. It's almost this initial thoroughness which is responsible for the alarm bells going off: oh no, boring period piece about unrequited love. Go see it and stick with it. But don't think you're in for an entertaining ride. This film will haunt you for days."
Lee Gough

"Eva's early admission of falling in love with her cousin sets the tone for this romantically staid melodrama, and sets in motion the unfolding story of Eva's personal revolt. It's a story of the romantic passion, desire, and inner conflict of a sensuous, out of time young woman. This is well-worn territory, and so a risky business indeed. Unfortunately, this small and unchallenging story lacks the required levels of romantic passion and inner conflict necessary in driving the narrative to its full potential. We feel for Eva, but we don't necessarily empathise with her, for she made the choice to move in with - and succumb to - a man she never loved. Morton's portrayal of Eva gives a little depth to this shallow material, yet the characters are as forgettable as yesterday's porridge. Each goes nowhere fast, with the exception of Harry's swift downward spiral. It all makes for a limped British melodrama that fails to inspire or to emote any real sense of personal turmoil, tragedy, or pathos. Perhaps if Mortan's character was more controversial, more reactionary, and even more mischievous, it would have made for a more engaging drama. Instead, her initial revolt is followed by taciturn decisions, and while they of course work to box her in, we are left frustrated by her fold. As Harry, Graves is a convincing farm boy who needs a replacement for his mother - someone to take care of him. But he is an ultimately repugnant, selfish gnat, and his decisions are not in line with his devotion to Eva. Altogether a wholly mystifying, disenchanting period piece, Dreaming of Joseph Lees is a better experience if you're chasing Z's."
Shannon J Harvey



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

TRAILER

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

DREAMING OF JOSEPH LEES (M15+)
(US)

CAST: Samantha Morton, Lee Ross, Miriam Margolyes, Frank Finlay, Nicholas Woodeson, Holly Aird, Rupert Graves, Felix Billson, Lauren Richardson

DIRECTOR: Eric Styles

PRODUCER: Christopher Milburn

SCRIPT: Catherine Linstrum

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jimmy Dibling

EDITOR: Caroline Limmer

MUSIC: Zbigniew Preisner

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Humphrey Jaeger

RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 30, 2000







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