WITHIN minutes of this rather beautiful film kicking off, you come to suspect that Gerald McMorrow, a debut director, has walked himself into a few problems.
Set in and about London, Franklyninvolves four apparently unconnected stories (one fantastic, the other three everyday) and refuses to knit them together for a good hour. You just know that, when it comes, the solution will be either too pat or too outrageous. As it happens, the denouement tends towards the former, but this remains a tasty piece of work from a promising director.
The key story concerns a masked vigilante (Ryan Phillippe), eerily similar in appearance to Rorschach in the upcoming Watchmen, who is tracking down the mastermind behind a campaign of oppression in a strikingly gothic city. In the real world, a religious middle-aged man (Bernard Hill) attempts to locate his soldier son; a handsome young fellow (Sam Riley) frets after being dumped by his fiancee; and a mentally unstable artist (Eva Green) makes videos of her half- serious suicide attempts.
Working with a budget about a tenth that of Benjamin Button, McMorrow, a former music video director, makes something grimly wonderful of his alternative London. The city is in the grip of religious fervour, and the film-makers have great fun dreaming up ever more preposterous cults. The director is assisted by strong performances from the feline Green, the graceful Riley and the reliably charismatic Hill. (Phillippe is little more than a dark voice in a mask.)
Still, for all the film’s charms, it does feel a little hollow and lacking in fleshed-out personalities. One also wonders where the potential audience is to be found. A bit light on fantasy for the Forbidden Planet crowd, a bit heavy on fantasy for those who find alternate worlds a turn off, Franklynappears to exist in a genre of its own making. Maybe that’s no bad thing.
Directed by Gerald McMorrow. Starring Eva Green, Ryan Phillippe, Sam Riley, Bernard Hill, James Faulkner, Susannah York, Art Malik 16 cert, Cork Omniplex; Cineworld/IMC Dún Laoghaire/ Movies@Dundrum, Dublin, 95 min★★★