PETER SARSGAARD EMILY MORTIMER JEREMIE RENIER CLAUDE RICH LIAM CUNNINGHAM
The period, at the end of the Dallas International Film Festival 2015 was Ladygrey, a French/English language film shot in South Africa by decade long cinematographer turned first time director Alain Choquart. There is a joke in the airline industry that you can always tell if the pilot has an air force or navy background depending on landing smoothness. The same could be applied to producers art directors, visual effects directors or in this case cinematographers assuming the main chair on a film. Also the co-writer, Choquart nails the visuals and the editing of Ladygrey; it’s moody, precise in depth of field and visually impressive. However everything else moves like a snail from the plot to the various characters having much to do about nothing.
Ten years following the apartheid in South Africa, a small rustic community is still adapting to modern life and distancing themselves from deadly secrets. Samuel (Sarsgaard) has never found the body of his wife who worked at the local hospital that took patients regardless of skin color. Mattis (Renier) clings to his dying father, who also lost his wife and mistress due to his colorblind patient care. Angus (Cunningham) is one of the most powerful and wealthy men in the town, it was his actions that resulted in the loss of many African lives, including the 11 women and children from Ladygrey who were never found. Now he cheats on his wife Olive (Mortimer) with one of the darker skinned locals. Olive’s suspicious of her husband’s involvement; drive her toward widower Samuel who is quickly falling apart.
Ladygrey is more about a community than it is individual characters. Everyone actions and reactions effect each other and everyone is linked together through the tragedy. It sort of mirrors the structure of Gosford Park, although not as fascinating or interesting. Every character is forced into something they are morally opposed to: Mattis must kill kittens and dogs for money, Samuel lies to his son about their predicament, etc. This behavior seems balanced by showcasing the good in their behavior. Good or bad, the characters lack emotional depth, their pain and struggle never goes beyond and image and representation of the actors portraying them. Poetic stories of eagles taking flight are beautifully choreographed but do little to influence the suspense in the plot.
The script doesn’t offer much in the way of cantharis for the characters in the story, nothing grand is revealed that the audience couldn’t already asses based on the wallowing predicament. Choquar’s pacing will send most audiences to sleep before anything substantial occurs. Perhaps Ladygrey is simply a reflection of stereotypical French film with attention technicality over sustainability. Actors like Mortimer (Lars and the Real Girl) or Sarsgaard (Blue Jasmine) typically elevate even the most banal narrative, here they simply stand in for characters types instead of characters the audience can empathize with.
Final Thought – Fails to develop beyond characters moving from one place to another.
By: Dustin Chase