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IN SHORT: For the arthouse
Written and Directed by Peter Mullan, the star of My Name Is Joe, Orphans, too, is spoken in Scottish accents so thick that the film requires English subtitles. That being said, if you have any personal problems with four letter words, stay away. Orphans is rife with 'em, some used in ways never considered by American writers [how emasculating would it be for the "c" word to be used to refer to men? It would be very, except that in this case the use is so frequent you could easily substitute the word "guy" with any negative connotation attached, and achieve the same effect. Still, you're warned...]
Over the course of twenty four hours, the Family Flynn of Glasgow prepares for the burial of their beloved mother, Rosemary, who died at age 61 a widow of more than thirty years. Her voice lingers in the memories of her four grown children... "Ssh. It'll all be all right."
But of course, for the most part, it won't.
While this family retires to the local pub to get properly plastered before the evening grows cold, the eldest son Thomas (Gary Lewis) takes the stage in the small pub to sing his mother's favorite ditty. (That would be "The Air That I Breathe," setting up an even funnier Hollies based joke towards film's end). Problem is the pub is crowded and one patron finds Thomas' mournful rendition downright hilarious. This pisses off younger brother John (Stephen McCole) who goes gonzo on the drunkard's skull. The bar erupts and, in the process, the most level headed of the brothers, Michael (Douglas Henshall) gets stabbed in the gut. When a taxicab refuses to take him to the hospital ("no blood on the seats!") he hatches the notion that, if he could hold off and get to work the next morning, he could claim a workplace accident and get compensation.
How he survives the night is one story. Brother John, so incensed at Duncan the drunkard, who got away, seeks out his friend Tanga, who knows where to get a gun. The adventures of John and Tanga, both total lowlife bullyboys, provide some very low brow humor which far outdoes any vomit or piss gag you could see in American flicks.
Thomas, sobered up, has promised to wait by his mother's body all night in the Church. Dutiful son that he is, that means his disabled sister Sheila (Rosemarie Stevenson) must stay with him -- Thomas can't take her home because he's promised the priest to stay in the Church. Exhibiting what seems to be an unusual burst of independence, Sheila spins the chair around and punches the battery into overdrive, heading out of the church and up a cobblestoned street towards home. It is a heady blast to be out from under Thomas' thumb and that blast lasts only as long as the charge in the batteries under her wheelchair. Which isn't long.
But what happens next is one of the few heartwarming and life-enhancing moments of a screenplay which doesn't offer much in the way of sympathetic characters. That doesn't mean that you can't feel sympathy for the characters, that's the easy part. With most character driven movies, like Orphans, there is usually something about a particular characters behavior or motivations that lets an audience member lock in and emotionally connect. Not even having spent a small hunk of my life in and out of a wheelchair gave me enough to connect to what was on screen.
The acting was fine. I "got" all the characters and followed their individual story arcs with no problem. Mullan has paid so much attention to the individual pieces of each scene that he manages to add something interesting everywhere -- as with the "heartwarming" hint I wrote above. There's a sliver of pathos inserted right down the middle that, if you do buy in heavily, will break your heart.
It should've broken mine, but no. Orphans was an interesting watch, after which I went out for a burger. No emotional connection whatsoever
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Orphans, he would have paid...
Just under the Pay per view level, as My Name Is Joe rated a cool $4 (which is better than average for arthouse flicks. At least in that one, there was a sympathetic character and story). I see a lot of films that are aimed at the arthouse circuit , Orphans is average, but far more watchable than a lot of the other stuff I sit through.
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