Reviewed by: Max Crawford

Mild cheddar. It's never surprising, it's certainly not for the adventurous, it's made to a tried-and-tested formula and for some reason it sells really well. This is where Sparkle's similarities to mild cheddar end, because unlike the cheese this film is almost unbearably sweet. "Gentle romantic comedy starring Bob Hoskins" is about enough of a description - the rest can be inferred.

Sam is a cheeky, charming Liverpudlian lad who dreams of moving to the big city to seek his fortune. Conveniently, the kindly, avuncular Vince (Hoskins) just happens to have a flat available in London, so off Sam goes. Much to his chagrin, his somewhat overbearing mother, Jill (Lesley Manville) moves with him, in order to better pursue her dream of becoming a singer. Sam finds himself in minimum wage crapwork, but it's not long before his Northern charm has landed him a juicy PR job via sleeping with the boss. Then, of course, he meets a girl and everything gets complicated. White lies and infidelity keep the tension brewing while we explore a couple of soap opera subplots. Will Kate, Sam's young girlfriend, ever discover who her real father is? Will Vince ever let Sam's mum know how he feels about her? Does anyone even remotely care?

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Well, yes, that's the thing. Despite the pantomime nature of the story, a collection of engaging performances really draws the viewer in. Bob Hoskins is in his element here, reminding everyone that he's a very capable actor who just happens to have found himself in a lot of turkeys. Stockard Channing pulls off the role of Shiela - Sam's boss and older lover - magnificently. The chemistry between rising stars Shaun Evans (Sam) and Amanda Ryan (Kate) is undeniable, and carries the film through a lot of its more cliched moments. Sure, we've seen all of this a thousand times before, but we haven't seen it done this well in a good while. Plus Anthony Head is effortlessly amusing in the comedy gay uncle role, the sort of thing he ought to get to do more often.

Production values are surprisingly high for a movie of this ilk, another factor which helps to carry things along when the saccharin starts to reach dangerous levels. At times it's possible (advisable, perhaps) to just switch off and enjoy the cinematography.

So, back to those characters that we can't help but care about. Do they get their happy endings? Of course they do - this is never in question. Granted, they all seem to arrive at the expense of Sheila, but she's old, and the film's already exhausted its caring-about-people-over-thirty quota on Vince and Jill. The villain doesn't get to marry the dame, but in this case it's because he's her brother and she's not really a villain, it's just that someone needs to be the bad guy, and we can't stay mad at our hero, now, can we?

Reviewed on: 16 Aug 2007
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A young man and his mother move from Liverpool to London to pursue their dreams.

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Chris ****

Director: Tom Hunsinger, Neil Hunter

Writer: Tom Hunsinger, Neil Hunter

Starring: Stockard Channing, Shaun Evans, Anthony Head, Bob Hoskins, Lesley Manville, Amanda Ryan, John Shrapnel, Peter Gordon

Year: 2007

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2007

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