Cassandra's Dream

Cassandra's Dream

*****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Forsaking his beloved New York for a while, Woody Allen has come to London. In place of his usual culturally sophisticated protagonists we have two cheeky Cockney chappies, played by Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell. Ian helps out in their father's restaurant business but dreams of working in investments and moving to LA. Terry works in a garage and is in the grip of a gradually intensifying gambling addiction. Though family life may be a little strained, the two of them enjoy a great relationship, always supporting one another. But when their rich and successful Uncle Howard visits from America, he brings with him a proposition so chilling that it will devastate both their lives.

Cassandra's Dream is a masterpiece the likes of which we haven't seen from Woody Allen in a long time. His most morally challenging work since Crimes And Misdemeanors, it takes what is in essence a simple story and finds depths within it which will continue to haunt the viewer long after the closing credits have rolled. It is also his funniest film for at least a decade. Though it is played absolutely straight, unfolding in the style of a classical tragedy ("I love the Greek tragedies, but it's so rare to get the chance to star in one," comments Ian's actress girlfriend), its increasing absurdity is celebrated at every opportunity. Sometimes there is no way to introduce certain story elements without seeming heavy-handed, so Allen does it with a playful bluntness which ratchets up the tension.

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Though Ewan McGregor appears to be doing a bizarre Michael Caine impersonation (reminiscent of his Star Wars performance as David Bowie playing Alec Guinness playing Obi Wan Kenobi), all the acting in this film is perfectly judged, even when Allen ditches realism and provides us with engagingly absurdist dialogue. Clare Higgins provides a touching variant on his ever-present Mother figure and Sally Hawkins is marvellous as Terry's girlfriend Kate. Tom Wilkinson turns in a convincingly creepy Uncle Howard and the wonderful Philip Davis, in just a few minutes of screen time, successfully dominates the emotional landscape of the film.

Cassandra's Dream is the name of the boat which Ian and Terry buy together at the start of the film. Named after one of the greyhounds Terry bets on, she's the symbol of their dreams and of their desperate compulsion to reach beyond their means. But even at the start, it's clear that it's not going to be plain sailing.

Nobody who loves film should miss this.

Reviewed on: 13 Feb 2008
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Two brothers in need of money are confronted with a terrible proposition.
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George Williamson **

Director: Woody Allen

Writer: Woody Allen

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell, Sally Hawkins, Tom Wilkinson, Hayley Atwell, John Benfield, Clare Higgins, Philip Davis

Year: 2007

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US, UK

Festivals:

Glasgow 2008

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