2005 Certificate: tbc

Synopsis

A tangle of troubled relationships snag and tear in director Martha Fiennes' cold-blooded chronicle of metropolitan life. Damien Lewis is the financial lawyer locked in a frosty marriage with Kristin Scott Thomas's art dealing ice maiden. Around them swirl a maelstrom of unhappy people from Penelope Cruz's tragic hooker to their neglected son to Ian Holm's high court judge. A sprawling, multi-stranded effort from the director of Onegin.

Director

  • Martha Fiennes

Cast

  • Kristin Scott Thomas

  • Penelope Cruz

  • Ben Chaplin

  • Ralph Fiennes

  • Damien Lewis

Review

Everything but the kitchen sink - probably a Bosch or Siemens granite drainer - seems to have been thrown into this icy tale of metropolitan misery.

It's difficult to warm to such cold protagonists as glacial designer couple Iona and Marcus Aylesbury (Scott Thomas and Lewis).

She's an emotionally brittle art dealer, who sweetens her not overly-disagreeable life (try a shift down a pit, love) with psycho-analysis and wallet-busting bouts of shopaholicism.

He's a soaring legal eagle, who's just been made a partner in a law firm where you suspect the oak panelling conceals something financially iffy.

The main casualty of their urbanely chic yet disconnected lifestyle is their young son, a hyperactive nipper who's taken to smearing the blood of dead crows down the windows of their modernist glass and chrome uber-gaff.

Flitting around their glittering universe is Iona's brother Stephen (Fiennes), a gay art historian with an over-friendly interest in the local, feral yoof.

There's also campaigning eco-journalist Trent (Chaplin), who's just renewed his friendship with Marcus, and Aylesbury senior (Holm), a high court judge with, er, certain weaknesses.

Well outside the comfort zone of these beautiful creatures lies Rhys Ifans' rookie social worker and his first case, Penelope Cruz's single mum and gaudy hooker.

Kicking off like Magnolia set in Mayfair, this initially intrigues as it reveals the charmed life of the privileged is shot through with self-loathing.

Scott Thomas is particularly good as the deeply unfulfilled wife and mother for whom consumer durables prove an unsatisfactory distraction.

Then it all goes a bit Pete Tong. A lumbering sub-plot involving financial chicanery in high places means the narrative loses its small-scale focus.

The Cruz/Ifans storyline - featuring the only two remotely sympathetic characters - never really fuses with the main plot and when faced with the Aylesburys' social demise you're left thinking: about time.

Chromophobia, incidentally, is an irrational fear of colour. Someting we could have done with a bit more of.

Tim Evans