BIFF12 - Albert Nobbs - Cinema Review

'Vast swathes are pinned on flights of seemingly inconsequential fantasy and a steadfast refusal from Nobbs to understand the basic mechanics of love.'

Whilst the main problem with Albert Nobbs may at first seem to be to do with with believing Glenn Close as a man, this soon bears out to be - as it is in fact portrayed in the film - a mere simple deception. The real problem with Rodrigo Garcia's drama is much more fundamental than this for, as the film demonstrates, if someone tells you they are a man you will, within reason, believe them.

The real problem then is in the plotting. Vast swathes are pinned on flights of seemingly inconsequential fantasy and a steadfast refusal from Nobbs to understand the basic mechanics of love. The latter of these elements is a particularly difficult concept to grasp, especially given Nobbs' history as an experienced hotel worker, surely witnessing happy couples on a regular basis, although Garcia does go out of his way to populate the one real location with cookie cutter idiots to try and dim this argument, Johnathan Rhys Meyers showing up as a playboy with zero characterisation, amongst others.

The real worth here, if you are set on seeing Albert Nobbs, is in the performances, chiefly from the dual Oscar-nominated talents of Close and Janet McTeer. Neither outdoes the other but rather there is a vast level of mutual compliance between two very different, but ultimately intertwined, fascinating characters. Watch too for Pauline Collins's hotelier, Mrs Baker, who has an oft hilarious flirtatious streak to break up the glumness, and Brendan Gleeson, still heading the list of actors who find it impossible to turn in a performance anything other than 'very good'.

But in counter to those bright spots there is a dim one that is threatening to become a repeat offender. Aaron Johnson is in deep and dark danger of developing his own version of the 'Hayden Christensen eyebrow', amongst other lesser crimes. Some of his line readings bring to mind Josh Hartnett's showcase scene in Hollywood Homicide, and not in a good way, not that bringing Hollywood Homicide to mind can ever be something which happens 'in a good way'. It's not all his fault though. He is definitely miss-cast, lacking the malice ruffian Joe needs. In fact said character is probably the worst part of Close, John Banville and Gabriella Prekop's screenplay, involved in a sub-plot it is difficult to care about, although its collision with Nobbs' story, once it starts, is an inevitability.

Albert Nobbs is released in the UK on Friday 27th April 2012.

The 18th Bradford International Film Festival runs from 19th - 29th April at The National Media Museum and several satellite venues in and around Bradford. It includes a European Features competition, the Shine Short Film Award and several major UK premieres and retrospectives.

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