Two Dramas from Focus Features
The Guys (July 20/07)
Painfully earnest but sporadically quite moving, The Guys casts Sigourney Weaver as Joan - a New York City-based author who agrees to help a firefighter (Anthony LaPaglia's Nick) write eulogies for several colleagues that died on 9/11. Based on Anne Nelson's play, the movie revolves primarily around Joan and Nick's various conversations - the majority of which, not unexpectedly, feature Nick's recollections of the men he lost on that fateful day. Director Jim Simpson generally does a nice job of eschewing cinematic tricks and just letting the two actors talk, though his sporadic efforts to open the proceedings up fall completely flat (ie the low-budget aesthetic just becomes distracting during such sequences). That being said, there's certainly no denying the effectiveness of the two central performances - with both actors smartly avoiding the temptation to overplay the script's more overtly emotional moments (and as good as Weaver is here, this is clearly LaPaglia's show from start to finish). Although The Guys is ultimately unable to shed its theatrical origins, the film - thanks to its stellar performances and genuinely moving third act - does remain a cut above other similarly-themed efforts.
My Summer of Love
Based on the novel by Helen Cross, My Summer of Love revolves around the friendship that forms between two characters from opposite sides of the track (Nathalie Press' Mona and Emily Blunt's Tamsin) over one pivotal summer. Director Pawel Pawlikowski has infused the proceedings with a deliberate, decidedly unhurried pace that admittedly suits the material quite well, though there's little doubt that the film is occasionally just a little too uneventful for its own good. The lack of plot isn't quite as problematic as one might've anticipated, however, and it's clear that Press and Blunt's stellar work plays a key role in the movie's mild success. There's likewise no denying the effectiveness of Pawlikowski's dreamy visuals, which ultimately ensure that the film comes off as an evocative (and authentic) look at the small-town lives of its various characters. Yet My Summer of Love occasionally feels just a little too thinly-plotted to sustain the 84-minute running time, while the film's conclusion isn't quite as satisfying as one might've hoped.