Reviewed by: Darren Amner

Franklyn is a breath of fresh air for British cinema and is the most impressive, daring feature from a first-time writer/director I've seen in some time. Gerald McMorrow has conjured up a film that spans many genres, coupling inventive storytelling with a strong visual aesthetic.

Franklyn is an urban fairytale set between the parallel worlds of a contemporary London and the futuristic faith-dominated metropolis of Meanwhile City. The film weaves a tale of four lost souls whose lives are intertwined by fate, romance and tragedy; as these worlds collide, a single bullet determines the destiny of all of them.

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Ryan Phillippe is Jonathan Preest, a feared vigilante of Meanwhile City, a place where religion is the law and he is the only atheist who stands against society. Wanted by the Clerics - the city's police force - Preest is betrayed and arrested by the cops. Left to rot in prison, with memories of the death of a young girl at the hands of sworn enemy The Individual haunting him, he vows revenge.

In present day London we meet Emilia (Eva Green). Born into privilege but deeply troubled, this beautiful art student is forced to endure therapy with a mother she despises, causing her to become cynical and depressed. Things are so bad that she has resorted to filming suicide attempts for her art degree.

Milo (Sam Riley) is also suffering. Recently dumped at the altar, he wonders if he'll ever find true love. One morning he spots an old schoolfriend called Sally on the street. Desperate to see her and take his mind elsewhere, he decides to track her down. His investigation leads him to the school where they met, where she is now a teacher - it's this chance encounter that reawakens Milo's sense of romance and they decide to meet for dinner.

Bernard Hill plays Peter Esser, a deeply religious man who has come to London to find his son David, a Gulf War veteran who has escaped from psychiatric care. Esser learns his son holds a grudge against him so he decides to smooth things out between them.

McMorrow expertly moves the narrative of Franklyn between the real world and the imaginary. Each character is fully fleshed out as we explore the relationship between life, love, fantasy and faith. His writing is complex, setting each character on a fatalistic path, where they are searching for something. Visually, too, all these stories have their own feeling and style.

Meanwhile City is a fantastical, stunning world with incredible architecture that has the feeling of something created by Terry Gilliam. In the real world, London has never looked and felt better and the film makes bold use of its metropolitan locations.

On one level it's surprising to see a Hollywood heartthrob such as Phillippe take a role in which he's unrecognisable, but he's an actor who enjoys a challenge and that's what this script provides. Green has the most challenging role but she steals all the scenes she is in and proves there is a lot more to her than being a French fancy.

Riley is engaging as Milo, a romantic, gentle soul. He brings charm and humour to his role and by taking this film after Control it only emphasises the point that he makes interesting choices and so far his instinct hasn't let him down.

McMorrow clearly has a fascination with how we perceive life, love and loss. He has made a film that will cause endless discussions and viewings as the story is unravelled and then knitted back together again. Franklyn won't be an easy sell, but for audiences who love films with an offbeat edge it is perfect.

Reviewed on: 18 Oct 2008
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Futurisic thriller which paints a picture of London in which there is no separation between Church and State.
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Director: Gerald McMorrow

Writer: Gerald McMorrow

Starring: Sam Riley, Eva Green, Ryan Phillippe, Bernard Hill, Susannah York, Art Malik, Chris Wilson, Mark Wingett, Kika Markham, Jay Fuller, Gary Pillai

Year: 2008

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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