Strong performances and sense of humor keep melodrama grounded
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Cinematography: Ryszard Lenczewski, David Scott
Starring: Nathalie Press, Emily Blunt, Paddy Considine
Studio information: Universal, 87 minutes
Original Theatrical Release: 2004
Shot in beautiful muted colors that match the lead character’s red hair,
this witty story about Mona—a British country girl led astray by bad influence Tamsin—works best as a slow boil. Tamsin arrives freshly expelled from prep school and ready to wreak havoc on whoever passes through her smoke rings. Enter Mona and her brother. The film reaches a point of high drama, for sure, but when Edith Piaf’s voice rises over the final minutes—echoing Tamsin’s confident assurance that “in France, crimes of passion are forgiven”—the gothic climax curls into a wicked grin. Nathalie Press brings Mona to life with such acute detail that when she mocks her all-but-unseen ex-boyfriend we get a startlingly vivid glimpse into her past, even though it never appears before the camera. Press was just as good in last year’s Oscar-nominated short Wasp and is certainly an actress to keep an eye on.