There’s a beguiling Englishness to this elegant, offbeat comedy-drama, terrifically written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce and directed by feature debutant Carl Hunter.
It has a wonderful syncopation in its writerly rhythm and narrative surprises. The film positively twinkles with insouciance, and is performed with aplomb, particularly by Bill Nighy, who brings a droll sprightliness and deadpan wit to the lead part, but shows how these mannerisms mask emotional pain.
Sam Riley is excellent as the character’s long-suffering son. Nighy plays Alan, a retired Merseyside tailor who has retreated into his habits and eccentricities to shield himself from the cares of the world. Long ago, Alan’s favourite son Michael left home – storming out after an ostensible argument over Scrabble, never to return.
In the decades since, Alan has searched for him, a quest that has sparked mixed feelings in the heart of his other, now grownup son Peter (Riley) who feels that he was always second-best. The Scrabble and Scrabble-obsession are emblems of a complex sort of communication crisis. Alan’s mastery of the game has taken him along a certain type of loneliness spectrum. He is simultaneously very good with words and absolutely terrible with them.
“Riley, Lowe, McInnerny and Agutter are all superb in their roles and the Scrabble face-off with McInnerny in an early scene – together with its highly surprising second encounter the following morning – is carried off with wit and flair. This film is a distinct, articulate pleasure.”
– Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian.
6 & 7 August 2019
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