Over the past week we have managed to take in two films and two very contrasting films at that. Quartet is the directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman, and a more unlikely film for his debut is hard to imagine. For Quartet is the gentlest of gentle comedies. There is a light hearted feel and look to the film, with only an ever so slight glimpse of a darker world. It is though a very enjoyable, if undemanding film. The cast is very good, a veritable treasure of the British stage and screen, and Hoffman directs with a light touch. The tale for what it is worth moves along at a brisk pace and ends with a lovely crescendo. All in keeping with the setting of a retirement home for former musicians. The music is delightful and the sun seems to always shine. Though this is a film starring older people, it is not really about old age. Too much fun going on.
The Impossible is about as far removed from the world of Quartet as you can get, and it is anything but undemanding. Set in Thailand during the Tsunami of Christmas 2004, this is the true story of how one family survived this horrific disaster. For almost unbelievably the whole family, the parents and their three children did somehow all survive this ordeal. The film starts with their cheerful arrival in the apparently idyllic beach resort. But very soon the first rumblings of the tsunami are heard and seen. Then suddenly the sea rises up and crushes just about everything and everyone in its path. The family are immediately separated and the mother, an excellent Naomi Watts, and the eldest son, impressively portrayed by Tom Holland, find themselves alone together, desperately trying to get clear of the waters. The portrayal of the force of the water and how terrifying it was for the mother in particular to be swept up and down and forced into and against objects is well, terrifying. Very impressive camera work! They do of course survive, but the mother is very badbly injured with a gaping gash in her upper leg. With the help of some of the local population she and her son are somehow, painfully transported to a makeshift hospital. In the meanwhile, the father, another good performance by Ewan McGregor, is alive and reasonably well with the other two boys. There ensues a frantic search as he tries and tries to find out what has happened to his wife and other son. Which he does in the end. Though the focus of the film is centred almost exclusively on the travails of this one family, we do get a real sense of just how frightening and how dreadful the situation was for everyone. The only question mark about the film is just why was it filmed in English with an English, or at least English speaking cast. For the family who did go through all this ordeal is a Spanish family and the film was financed and produced by Spain and directed by a Spaniard, Juan Antonio Bayona. However in the film the Spanish family have become a very middle class English family. Non English language films have become more common in recent years and some have been very successful. It would be very worrying if the reason the Spanish producers decided to make this film with an English cast was solely on the prospect of making even more money. This could start a rather insidious trend. We should be celebrating the variety in our world and not reducing everything to the medium of English. No matter how good the resulting film is.