Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

If a member of cast could save a film, Michelle Williams would be the person to hire, since her central performance in this muddle of a movie is the only thing that stops it being unwatchable. Proving her command of an English accent is as good as any Brit, she stars as a working-class high-rise mum, notable for her mini-skirts and skinny rib shirts. Though really far too clean cut for this self-proclaimed “slapper” role, she still gives the film what little bit of heart it has.

William’s character – like so many this year (Elite Squad, Kreutzer Sonata, I’m talking about you) – is there not only in the central role, but also in an irritating voice-over, in which she writes letters to Osama bin Laden. Oddly, these interludes, which are taken in part from the Chris Cleave book on which the film is based, are redolent of the Bridget Jones’s Diary excerpts that framed Sharon Maguire’s adaptation of that book – her previous writer/director outing - a parallel she could well do without.

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The letters to Osama stem from the fact that Williams’ – whose ‘everymum’ character is never named - has just lost her son and bomb squad copper husband in a terrorist attack at an Arsenal versus Chelsea match. That, in itself, would probably have been enough plot, but these days, it seems, victims need an extra level of mental torture – step forward dodgy journalist Jasper (Ewan McGregor), who just happened to be doing a spot of horizontal jogging with Williams in front of the telly when the bomb went off.

If this all sounds fairly ludicrous, things get worse when it transpires: blimps bearing the faces of the dead are floating high above the city as a “cemetery in the sky” and this is not considered to be either weird or in extremely bad taste; Williams’ husband’s colleague wants to jump her bones before his body is even cold; and, most implausibly of all, Jasper has never eaten fishfingers.

Before you even begin to consider why it would be that a copper and his wife would be bringing up a child in a high-rise, you find yourself distracted by the huge leaps in genre. One moment we are watching the breakdown of a mother as she contemplates her loss, the next – thanks to a, frankly, ridiculous plot twist in which Jasper identifies one of the potential bombing suspects and thinks it’s a good idea to share this news with mum – we seem to be on the verge of a revenge drama. This last option could have proved fruitful for exploration but here it is the least explored avenue, used only so that the plot can be given a quick shot of “selfless humanity” midway through.

By far the most laughable aspect of the scripting is the burgeoning romance between mummy and hubbie’s bomb squad pal Terrence. If the sight of him describing the concept of terrorists to Williams as thieves “trying to get into my caravan” at a motorhome show isn’t enough, his pledge to her to “pick up the broken pieces of your heart and put them back together, no matter how long it takes,” is likely to have you reaching for the sick bag.

The idea of exploring the fallout of a terror attack has potential – and by using a fictional event rather than a real one, there is freedom to examine all aspects of man’s inhumanity to man, without hurting any living person’s feelings - but this opportunity is missed due to poor plotting and even worse scripting. Despite Williams’ palpable portrayal of a woman on the edge and some decent special effects in the terror bombing sequence itself, this boom is bust.

Reviewed on: 23 Oct 2008
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Incendiary packshot
A London mum tries to cope with the grief of the loss of her family in a terror attack.

Director: Sharon Maguire

Writer: Sharon Maguire, based on the novel by Chris Cleave

Starring: Michelle Williams, Ewan McGregor, Matthew Macfadyen, Sidney Johnston, Jonathan Andrews, Ehti Aslam, Sasha Behar, Robin Berry, Gavin Brocker, Nicholas Courtney, Natalie Dormer

Year: 2008

Runtime: 99 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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