Starring Romola Garai, Sam Neill, Michael Fassbender and Charlotte Rampling, this period drama from director Francois Ozon is the story of Angel Deverell, a young woman growing up in Victorian England who knows in her heart that she is destined to become a writer, and a great one at that.
She writes romances which have a wide audience appeal and launches herself into the literary world, becoming a huge success and making enough money to buy an entire estate. Then, she falls for the oddly named Esme (isn’t that a girl’s name?) and hires his sister in order to pursue him. Success however has gone to her head and she starts to treat the world and everyone she meets as characters in one of her own novels. However the course of true love is never smooth and when the First World War breaks out, she is going to have a hard time holding on to her new man, let alone her career.
Primarily, this is a movie about a fantasist, who refuses to live in the real world. Angel is not half as good a writer as she thinks and her books are frothy romances of the worst order. They become reflected in her everyday life, giving the movie a deliberate sense of falseness and unreality, mirrored in the mise en scene and the direction, which is as skilful, as you would expect from Ozon. There’s a tremendous cast, headed up by the largely unknown Romola Garai as Angel, who turns in a great performance as the largely unlike able Angel, a self obsessed character who wants everyone to fit into her own strange dream world. Garai plays the over the top nature of Angel perfectly, with a spiteful girlishness, coupled with a wide eyed innocence. A strange combination but one that Garai pulls off with great success, making for a compelling central protagonist. Her wild excesses are perfectly balanced by Sam Neill’s understated performance as Esme and Charlotte Rampling gives a fantastic performance as ever, intense and riveting. Ozon has really pulled off a trick with this movie, it’s incredibly watchable and entertaining.
Director: François Ozon
Writers: Elizabeth Taylor (novel), François Ozon
Stars: Romola Garai, Sam Neill and Lucy Russell
Release Date: 29 August 2008 (UK)