Scenes Of A Sexual Nature

Scenes Of A Sexual Nature

**1/2

Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

Here's a homegrown Brit flick and no mistake. Made for less than £500k, penned by The Catherine Tate Show's scribe Aschlin Ditta, set on London's leafy Hampstead Heath and peopled by an array of British small and big screen stars. The Union Jack's flapping all over it.

Taking place on one summery day in the park, the film weaves together a series of vignettes looking at seven couples' relationships. Debut feature director Ed Blum certainly pulled off a coup corralling so many recognisable faces to take part - and for so little. Of course, Ewan McGregor's the tent-pole casting here, but that doesn't mean he gets the lion's share of the screen time.

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In brief, Andrew Lincoln's wife catches him drooling over a nubile French student; Catherine Tate and Adrian Lester amble through the most amicable divorce ever; Ewan McGregor promises his partner Douglas Hodge that he'll stop straying if they can start a family; Tom Hardy's chancer tries his hand with the stressed Sophie Okonedo; Gina McKee and Hugh Bonneville struggle through a blind date picnic; businessman Mark Strong appears to have a great relationship on the go; and old timers Eileen Aitkins and Benjamin Whitrow find themselves wandering into the past.

Everyone turns in sound performances for their respective characters, inevitably all of whom are quintessentially middle class, save for the continuing revelation that is Tom Hardy (soon to be seen in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette). His not-so-smart London wide-boy is genuinely amusing whilst also invoking both pathos and a begrudging respect, all from the bloke who was the villain in Star Trek: Nemesis, no less. He's more impressive than the two-tone McGregor.

Most warming are Aitkins and Whitrow, who meet on a park bench and first strike up a friendship and then some memories. Their moments have the best dialogue and both bring a straightforward, dairy-free sentimentality to their gently weathered characters. At a push, if anything provides a centre to the film, it's their maturity and simply unfolding story.

Ditta's looking to use all the narratives to explore different contemporary issues of sex and love. Unfortunately, it feels like he only really introduces them. You wouldn't want him to provide any trite answers, but it does feel like we could have done with one more slice of each vignette to take things to more interesting areas. Or some slightly darker repartee to hold our interest. As it is the result is an ultimately light and dissatisfying film that promises more substance than it was brave enough to deliver.

With Blum's simple but effective direction showcasing the leafy scenery against the London skyline, it may be the Heath that comes off best here.

Reviewed on: 12 Oct 2006
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Everyone's at it on Hampstead Heath.
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