Month: February 2023

The Bonham: “Boozy Snoozy Lunch”


Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh

Six years ago and still fairly new to life in Edinburgh, we took advantage of a special offer we found online and booked ourselves a ‘boozy snoozy dinner’ at the Bonham Hotel. We were blown away by the venue, the quality of the food and the great value. So when, more recently, we spotted a Black Friday deal at the same hotel, this time for a ‘boozy snoozy lunch’, we decided it was an offer we couldn’t pass up.

As we take our seats in the dining room, we reflect on everything that’s happened since we were last here. Edinburgh now feels like our home and, over those intervening years, we’ve survived some turbulent events – the pandemic being just one of them. The Bonham is exactly as we remember it: a warm, welcoming haven in a central (but surprisingly quiet) neighbourhood. The walls are hung with the same original oil paintings, there’s a soft murmur of conversation, and the staff are still as polite and efficient as ever.

First for the boozy bit – a bottle of Chilean sauvignon blanc, which we make a start on while perusing the menu. For starters, Susan has the heritage carrot panna cotta, quite the prettiest dish you could ask for and absolutely bursting with flavour. It’s accompanied by pink pickled ginger, salted baked carrots and puffed black rice. I opt for the Simpson game venison carpaccio, succulent slivers of ‘melt in the mouth’ meat adorned with beetroot. leek ash, pickled shimeji mushrooms and red vein sorrel. We’re afraid that the current national shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables might have a negative effect, but these fears are quickly assuaged. This is an inspired beginning.

For the main course, Susan samples the stone bass, a generous slice of perfectly cooked fish, presented on a laksa broth and topped with seaweed tapioca. The laksa would be better if it were more robustly spiced, but that’s really our only criticism. I keep things traditional and choose the Ayrshire pork, a mouthwatering chunk of belly meat with a gratifyingly crispy layer of crackling on the top. It comes with ham hock, kohlrabi, spiced compressed apple and hispi cabbage. The apple in particular is an inspired touch, the sharp flavour cutting through the meatiness with ease.

We also share a side order of hand cut chips sprinkled with rosemary scented blackthorn salt. ‘Ah,’ you may say, ‘chips are just chips,’ but these are perfection – crispy exteriors, soft, buttery insides, and completely irresistible.

For pudding, Susan enjoys a delicious chocolate fondant, which is rich and indulgent, accompanied by crispy honeycomb and zesty orange sorbet. I cannot resist the glazed lemon tart, again as pretty as a picture, and served with Scottish raspberries and Normandy créme fraiche. Both puddings are utterly delectable.

Other things may have changed in six years but this is still a perfectly executed menu. Even at the full price of £35 per head, it represents extraordinary value for money and, on the Black Friday deal we’ve booked, it’s an absolute steal. I can think of many venues in the city centre charging twice as much with half the flair of what’s on offer here. I’d heartily recommend The Bonham to anyone in search of somewhere to enjoy a special meal.

Here’s to the next time!

5 stars

Philip Caveney

Revelations of Rab McVie


Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

The word ‘psychedelic’ is often misapplied to theatrical ventures but, in the case of Revelations of Rab McVie, I think it’s entirely appropriate. This challenging piece of gig theatre is mind-bending in the best sense of the word: an exhilarating collaboration between a group of musicians, a visual artist and an actor – which succeeds on just about every level.

The performance begins…

To my left, there’s the Scottish three-piece, The Filthy Tongues, augmented in this case by two other musicians. As vocalist Martin Metcalfe, decked out like some surreal preacher, unleashes a series of memorable songs about darkness and decay, he’s anchored by the metronomic rhythms of drummer Derek Kelly and bass player Fin Wilson. The results have me hooked from the first chords of the opening song, The Ghost of Rab McVie. Alex Shedlock adds extra guitar and keyboards to the mix, while Asim Rasool takes care of a whole range of percussion.

To my right, artist Maria Rud works on a sheet of horizontal glass, smearing paint with brushes and sponges (but mostly with her bare hands). Her endeavours are projected onto a huge backdrop and they are mesmerising. From an initial sludge of colour, she is able to conjure vivid landscapes, bizarre animals, cloaked figures and even an enigmatic portrait of a mysterious figure, gazing benignly down at the audience. Lit from behind, her translucent creations are like surreal stained-glass windows, and what’s also interesting is the way she interacts with the music, at times almost appearing to conduct it with her paint-splashed hands. Each successive image is washed away, like a sand castle extinguished by a rising tide, only to be replaced by something new and equally intriguing

And now, centre stage, a silhouette rises from one of the paintings and stumbles out of it. It’s Rab McVie himself, as portrayed by actor Tam Dean Burn, a grotesque leering presence, transported by visions that only he can see. From time to time, he proclaims a string of half-intelligible observations, including a detailed description of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. He tears off his clothes. He picks up a megaphone and bellows at us.

This eclectic mix of performers is directed with aplomb by Maria Pattinson. If I were to claim to understand everything that’s going on here, I’d be lying. Suffice to say that I am swept up in the piece, riveted by what’s happening onstage, my gaze moving back and forth as I try to take in every detail. I later read that the piece started life as an essay by Rud, written shortly before the invasion of Ukraine, which may account for the disturbing ‘end of days’ vibe that dominates the production. Whatever its roots, this has blossomed into something unique and spectacular.

4.4 stars

Philip Caveney



NT Live: Cineworld, Edinburgh

Although we’re watching it in a cinema, Clint Dyer’s Othello is avowedly theatrical, overtly referencing the play’s stage history via a series of projected images as the audience trickles in. It’s a powerful conceit, acknowledging the fact that our interpretations of classic texts change with the times, informing us that this will be an Othello for the 2020s (and far removed from Olivier’s infamous 1960s blackface).

Dyer brings the play’s racism into sharp focus, as well as its sexism. Moving the action to the 1930s means that the widespread bigotry Othello (Giles Terera) endures fits into a recognisable framework of fascism. Brabantio (Jay Simpson), who doesn’t want his daughter to marry ‘a Moor’ – not even a super-soldier, credited with defeating the Turkish army – is far from alone in his prejudice. Indeed, we have a whole System (the chorus), all too willing to endorse his view. Roderigo (Jack Bardoe) is not played here as an amusing fool; instead, he is a jingoist, short on reason but bold in his assertions. Thus, as the only Black actor on stage, Terera’s Othello is isolated and visibly different from those around him, and his relationship with the politically-aware Desdemona (Rosy McEwen) is as much ideological as it is romantic.

In this context, it’s no surprise that an unscrupulous schemer such as Iago (Paul Hilton) can thrive. He is the ultimate embodiment of toxic masculinity, propelled by self-entitlement and envy; Hilton makes this Iago deliciously sinister. He abuses everyone: his wife, Emilia (Tanya Franks) bears the brunt of his frustration, but no one is immune. His bitter resentment sours everything, drags everybody down. Othello doesn’t stand a chance against such an insidious adversary, in such an imbalanced world.

Chloe Lamford’s set is stark and monochrome: a semicircular series of steps, suggestive of a Greek amphitheatre. The chorus heightens this notion, acting as a kind of on-stage audience, reflecting us back at ourselves. We are all the System, it seems to say; we are all complicit. The costumes (by Michael Vale) continue the monochrome theme, highlighting the binary opposition of black and white.

This is an excellent production: bold, contemplative, kinetic and engaging. Terera captures both Othello’s strength and his failings, his dignity and his deficiencies. We see his greatness, but also recognise and despise his misogyny when he tries to justify murdering Desdemona by saying he loved her “too well”. McEwen imbues Desdemona with a steadfast nature, confident and assertive to the end, but it is Franks’ Emilia who really surprises: I’ve never been so aware of her as a victim before, nor of her bravery in finally speaking out.

Dyer’s Othello is a complex, clever piece of work. It’s not a radical reworking – indeed, it’s almost entirely true to Shakespeare’s text – but the lens is very different.

4.5 stars

Susan Singfield



Cameo Cinema, Edinburgh

In the rain-lashed city of Busan, prostitute Moon So-young (Ji-eun Lee) takes her recently born boy to a local church’s ‘baby box’ – a safe space where troubled parents can leave their newborns to be collected by orphanages. She’s unaware that a volunteer at the church, Ha Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho), is running a lucrative sideline, occasionally kidnapping a child and selling it on the open market to young couples who are unable to have children of their own. He’s aided by his friend, Dong Soo (Gang Don-won), an orphan himself, and neither of them seem to have any qualms about what they’re doing. On the contrary, they have convinced themselves that it’s somehow noble.

However, when So-young has a change of heart and returns to the church to look for her child, she’s met by Dong Soo, who explains the situation, and, surprisingly, she decides to go along with their plan, the three of them sharing whatever money they make. They are blissfully unaware that their every move is under surveillance by two detectives, Su-jin (Bae Doona) and Lee (Lee Joo-young), who follow them as the trio set off across the country in a battered van to visit the various prospective buyers.

Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda, working with cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo, does a great job of capturing the atmosphere of various locations across Korea, from teeming cities to tranquil landscapes, but there’s a major flaw at the heart of this film, which presents Ha Sang-hu and Dong Soo as a couple of lovable misfits, who seem to see themselves as modern day Robin Hoods (a character in my latest novel Stand and Deliver labours under the same misconception, but this is only his self-assessment and it is shown to be wrong). In Broken, Song Kang-ho in particular – familiar to western audiences from the brilliant and infinitely superior Parasite – is just too downright likeable. Koreeda never seems to acknowledge that the character is doing something heinous and beyond excuse.

Furthermore, a couple of gangsters – who are leaning on Ha Sang-yun for protection money – must be two of the most unthreatening bad guys in movie history. As the story unfolds, it gradually builds to a supposed climax when the two detectives manage to persuade Moon So-young to wear a wire, so they can listen in on proceedings.

And then there’s a sudden conclusion that feels pat and – it must be said – somewhat unbelievable.

Broker has been the recipient of a clutch of incredible advance reviews, but the truth is that this is a muddled and unconvincing story, that seems to believe that contemporary audiences will be willing to ignore the problematic nature of the central characters’ actions. I for one, cannot and that’s an issue that shunts this film into the file labelled ‘D for disappointing’.

3.4 stars

Philip Caveney

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish


Cineworld, Edinburgh

All things considered, this must be the least anticipated ‘sequel’ of the year. The Shrek franchise began way back in 2001 and, over the years, there have been three sequels of steadily diminishing quality. In 2011, Puss in Boots emerged as a Shrek spin-off and, it must be said, not a particularly memorable one. So Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is essentially a sequel to a spin-off. But those who take note of such things can’t fail to have missed the fact that the film has been nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA. This is because it has something up its sleeve that nobody expected. It’s really good.

In the adrenalin-fuelled opening sequence, we meet our titular hero (voiced once again by Antonio Banderas), who is singing and dancing for an adoring audience. Shortly thereafter, he takes on a whole army of warriors single-handedly, and rounds things off by doing battle with an ancient woodland bogeyman.

And then he er… dies. 

Of course, he’s a cat and everyone knows that felines have nine lives, right? But, as a helpful doctor explains, Puss has just used up life number eight. From now on he needs to be very careful indeed, because – if he allows himself to be killed one more time – his heroic escapades will be over for good. So when he encounters the genuinely creepy Wolf (Wagner Moura), he realises that this is an enemy he can never hope to defeat, and for the first time in his life, he’s afraid. Almost before you can say ‘game over,’ he’s hiding out in Mama Luna (Da’Vine Joy Randolph)’s cat refuge and pursuing a quiet, domesticated existence.

What follows is a clever meditation on the subject of death, but if that sounds like something you really don’t want to watch, let me assure you that yes, you actually do! As scripted by Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow, this is a witty – sometimes hilarious -quest tale that never misses an opportunity to propel the franchise headlong into previously uncharted waters, while Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado’s flamboyant direction allows the animation department to steer the visuals into challenging new dimensions. Suffice to say that there are scenes here that challenge Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse for eye-popping, jaw-dropping panache and make the original film look positively pedestrian.

There’s a welcome return for Puss’s ex-girlfriend, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), and a new sidekick in the shape of the criminally adorable Perrito (Harvey Guillén), a wannabe therapy dog who’s just pretending to be a cat, in a desperate attempt to extend his friendship group. And since the Shrek series has always riffed on popular fairy tales, we’re offered a villainous Goldilocks (Florence Pugh), plus her adoptive ursine family (Ray Winstone, Olivia Colman and Samson Kayo). There’s also arch-nemesis, Jack Horner (John Mulaney), a decidedly Trumpian creation, who – despite inheriting an entire pie-factory from his entitled parents – still insists on sticking his grubby thumbs into every opportunity that comes his way.

And did I mention the fabulous Latin American flavoured soundtrack by Heitor Pereira? I leave the cinema dancing.

While PIB:TLW might not be a comfortable fit for younger kids, for everyone from eight years and upwards, it’s a rollicking, rib-tickling adventure that never loses its momentum. My advice? Put aside your expectations and see this on the big screen. You won’t be disappointed.

4.4 stars

Philip Caveney



Amazon Prime

In the same year that Top Gun: Maverick achieves an Oscar nomination, another film about navy airmen crash-lands onto Amazon Prime, making barely a ripple. Whereas TGM was a complete invention, Devotion is a more serious undertaking, based around real life hero, Jesse Brown. Brown was the first African-American aviator to complete the United States Navy basic training programme and was a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross. What’s more, his exploits largely took place in a confrontation that has been brushed under the carpet of history – The Korean War.

As portrayed by Jonathan Majors, Brown is a man weighed down by the responsibility of being a hero to so many people of colour – a man who, on a daily basis, hurls insults at his own reflection, based on all the racist abuse he’s encountered over the years, mostly from his fellow airmen. This strange ritual is overheard by Tom Hudner (Glen Powell), newly graduated from Flight Academy and chosen to work as Brown’s ‘wingman.’ (If Powell looks familiar, it’s because he enjoyed a similar role opposite Tom Cruise in TGM.)

Hudner soon comes to value Brown’s unconventional approach to flying, and he’s witness to the man’s evident devotion to his wife, Daisy (Christina Jackson), and to their young daughter, Pam. When Daisy charges Hudner with the task of ‘being there for’ her husband, he takes the responsibility seriously.

The early stretches of the movie depict Brown and his fellow pilots training in state-of-the-art Corsair jet fighters for a war that might happen at any moment. We are witness to the men’s rivalries, their various triumphs and disasters – and theres also a sequence where, on leave in Cannes, Brown encounters Hollywood starlet, Elizabeth Taylor (Serinda Swan) and accepts her invitation to meet up at her favourite casino.

But it’s not until around the halfway mark, when the airmen are sent off for active service, that the film finally… ahem, takes flight. There are some impressive aerial battle sequences (which provide a decent test for the new projector we’ve bought for watching movies at home) and, if the film’s ending is somewhat downbeat, well, this is history. Unlike some recent ‘true stories’ we’ve witnessed, screenwriters Jake Crane and Jonathan Stewart stick rigorously to the facts. As the inevitable series of post-credit photographs attests, they have been pretty meticulous. The Elizabeth Taylor meeting? It actually happened.

Devotion is by no means a perfect film. I fail to learn enough about any of the other airmen in Brown’s crew to care much about what happens to them and, if I’m honest, all that rampant testosterone does get a little wearisome in places. What’s more, with a running time in excess of two hours, my patience is somewhat tested in the film’s meandering first half. But it’s worth sticking with for those soaring battle sequences which really do take you right into the heart of the action, and to learn about an important historical figure.

3. 5 stars

Philip Caveney

The Quiet Girl (An Cailin Ciuin)


Amazon Prime

Colm Bairéad’s The Quiet Girl (An Cailin Ciuin), based on a short story by Claire Keegan, is a beautiful film, as intense as it is languorous. It’s a simple story, elegantly told. The titular girl is Cáit (Catherine Clinch), and she’s quiet in many ways: tongue-tied, illiterate, watchful, an outsider. When we first see her, she’s hiding – in a field and then under her bed. She seems choked with secrets and longing, simultaneously yearning to be seen and to disappear.

Her home life is one of poverty and neglect. The house is full of children, and there’s another on the way. Her Mam (Kate Nic Chonaonaigh) is exhausted; her Da (Michael Patric) is a wastrel, gambling their meagre income and failing to do any work. He spends his time, predictably, with other women or in the pub, and Cáit’s mistrust of him is palpable. Is he abusive in other ways?

The kids at school call Cáit a weirdo, so it’s no surprise she wants to run away. And it’s no surprise to us that Mam can’t cope, and packs her off to spend the summer with some distant relatives – although it’s certainly a shock to Cáit, who isn’t told anything about where she’s going, before being bundled into Da’s car.

But her banishment proves her salvation, and – under Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley) and Seán (Andrew Bennett)’s gentle care and tutelage – Cáit blossoms. The healing is a two-way process: these stand-in grandparents have their own sorrow, evident in the carefully preserved child’s bedroom Cáit sleeps in, with its train wallpaper and wardrobe full of ‘just the right size’ clothes. Bairéad captures the sense of endlessness that comes with the long school holidays, while cinematographer Kate McCullough bathes the Irish countryside in a golden glow, making this month of respite seem like a whole new life.

There’s a raft of narratives out there that plumb the same notion: a single summer that shapes a person’s life – Willy Russell’s One Summer, Noel Streatfeild’s The Growing Summer, Johanna Spyri’s Heidi, to name but a few (in fact, Heidi features as a bedtime story here, although – of course – her tale is the reverse of Cáit’s). But this Irish-language film stands out, perhaps because of Clinch’s heartbreaking performance – you can almost feel her aching with loneliness and love. Despite the overt simplicity of the tale, there’s a lot to uncover.

With an Oscar nomination for best international feature, The Quiet Girl seems destined to make a lot of noise.

4.7 stars

Susan Singfield



Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

A school trip to the Paisley Witches’ Memorial proves momentous in Moonset, Maryam Hamidi’s spirited play about four teenage girls, who just need a little bit of power…

It’s a great premise. Surely the worst thing about being an adolescent is the lack of autonomy. There’s so much to deal with (exams, hormones, growing up, life), so much conflicting advice, so many rules and boundaries and exhortations to “be good”.

Roxy (Layla Kirk) feels like she’s on fire. Her best friend, Bushra, seems to be cooling on her, her mum (Zahra Browne) is concealing something, Nat 5s are looming – and why hasn’t she started her period yet? But Bushra (Cindy Awor) has her own problem – she has questions about her sexuality, and the answers seem scary. Meanwhile, Gina (Leah Byrne) is a ball of restless energy, bouncing from one calamity to another, and Joanne (Hannah Visocchi) isn’t sure her boyfriend, Gary, is quite the guy she’d like him to be.

They all feel powerless. And, like Abigail Williams and her friends before them, the girls seek strength in magic.

The teens’ exuberance is funny and engaging, but it doesn’t conceal the real problems they have to deal with. Hamidi’s bright, lively script grapples with dark themes – touching on coercive control, child abuse, immigration and cancer – treading this fine line with confidence. Director Joanna Bowman nimbly encapsulates the emotional turbulence of the formative years; she doesn’t hold back. We watch as the girls take terrible risks; they are as reckless and bold as only adolescents can be. And we’re on the roller-coaster with them, hoping against hope that the consequences of their actions won’t prove too appalling…

The set (by Jen McGinley) is a jumble, like the kids’ minds, with myriad items competing for attention. It works well, the empty circle in the middle representing their safe space: the junk yard, ironically, is the one place with nothing filling it, offering them room to think, to cement their friendship and ultimately find their hidden strengths. There are some pretty nifty effects too. I like the way the fire is created with smoke and light (courtesy of Simon Hayes). Movement director Vicki Manderson deserves a mention too: this is a kinetic piece and the momentum never flags, the performers interacting seamlessly with the space.

The set-up works well, leaving me scared for the girls and their futures. No spoilers here – suffice to say that, after the coup de théâtre at the end of the first act, the second provides a pay-off that is unexpected but satisfying. Although I’m crying as the lights go down, I’m also left with a feeling of hope.

4.3 stars

Susan Singfield

Women Talking


The Cameo, Edinburgh

Sarah Polley’s Women Talking is an unusual film, in that it really is all in the words. It’s a film to listen to, rather than a film to watch. Based on the novel by Miriam Toews, itself based on a true story, it is billed as an ‘imagined response to real events’. This is, to my mind, both its strength and its weakness.

The real events are shocking: in Bolivia, between 2005 and 2009, more than a hundred girls and women were drugged and raped by the men in their Mennonite community. They were knocked out with cattle tranquillisers so that, when they woke up – bruised and bloody, pregnant and diseased – they didn’t really know what had happened, although terrifying fragments of memory sometimes surfaced. The men offered various explanations: they had been visited by ghosts or the devil; they were lying; they were hysterical. Eventually, two men were caught in the act; they gave other names, and eight were gaoled.

To their credit, neither the book nor the film dwell on the violence. We’ve all seen too many women brutalised on screen. Instead, they deal with the imagined aftermath. The story is moved to Canada; the collective victims ascribed characters and backstories. Rooney Mara is Ona, pregnant, but still radiating love. Clare Foy is Salome, with vengeance in her heart. Jessie Buckley is Mariche, minded to stay and try to forgive, because that’s what God decrees and she doesn’t want to be damned. All of the community’s men have gone to the city to post bail for the two who have been arrested, meaning that the women have forty-eight hours to make a decision. Do they stay and forgive? Stay and fight? Or leave, and start again?

There’s an attempt here at generating tension: the forty-eight hour deadline; the possibility that the women might be too timid to either fight or leave. But, in truth, this doesn’t really work. Who could doubt that these articulate, confident women would show their mettle when it came to it, that they wouldn’t do their utmost to protect their daughters?

The conversation is fascinating, incorporating far-reaching and nuanced questions about power, education, complicity and the role of an ally. I’m engrossed in the arguments. However, I can’t pretend I wouldn’t like a bit more dramatic drive, a bit more of a traditional story arc. Perhaps I wouldn’t feel this way if these were real testimonies – a verbatim piece would have more heft – but, as it’s fiction, I feel it’s asking a lot of an audience to sit through a film that could just as easily be a podcast or a radio play.

I’m glad that Polley has moved away from the book’s male narrator, August (Ben Whishaw), justified by Toews because women and girls in the Molotschna colony don’t learn to read or write. Given the subject matter, it seems like a no-brainer to silence him, so that he’s just the transcriber, and the story we hear is not filtered through a man’s perspective.

Despite my quibbles, there’s no doubting that these are strong, nuanced performances, imbued with dignity and pain, nor that the women talking need to be heard. It’s an important film. Just not, to my mind, an especially good one.

3.5 stars

Susan Singfield

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On


Cineworld, Edinburgh

Marcel is an unlikely star. He began his film career in a short clip on YouTube in 2010 and, over the next few years, starred in two more brief adventures. These subsequently went viral and were viewed by over 50 million people. A feature film was a possibility, but could something created on a whim have sufficient clout to sustain a running time of one and a half hours? On the evidence of Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, the answer to that is a resounding ‘yes!’

Marcel seems to have been inspired by one of those weird little items you’ll sometimes encounter at the bottom of a long-forgotten drawer. You don’t remember where you got him or even why you hung onto him for so long – maybe you had a vague notion that he might come in useful one day? Created by Dean Fleischer Camp and endearingly voiced by Jenny Slate, Marcel is the cutest one-eyed shell with doll’s feet you’re ever likely to encounter. He can talk! He can sing! He can even knock out a mean version of Amazing Grace, using a piece of pasta as a trumpet. He lives in an Airbnb with his nanna, Connie (Isabella Rossellini), and he misses the other members of his family, who were inadvertently swept into a suitcase when the apartment’s previous occupants went their separate ways.

Now Marcel and Connie have a visitor called Dean (Fleischer Camp), a filmmaker who has decided to capture the duo’s antics on camera and who, in a move that echoes Marcel’s origins, decides to post the resulting footage online…

If this sounds like an unpromising concept, don’t be misled. Marcel is a delightful creation, who easily charms his way into my affections without ever being over sentimental. It’s hard to pin down his appeal in words, but pretty much everything he says makes me warm to him, whether he’s explaining his daily routines, demonstrating one of his Heath Robinson-like inventions or merely interacting with Connie. The screenplay, written by Fleischer Camp, Slate and Nick Paley, is beautifully nuanced, which means that – while younger viewers can simply enjoy the jokes and the lo-fi stop frame animation – more mature audiences will appreciate the more serious topics, like dementia and bereavement.

When Marcel wonders if his online followers might be able to help him locate the missing members of his family, the film cranks up a gear, drawing in real life TV personalities like Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes, and even chat show titan Conan O’ Brien, who are clearly as impressed by Marcel as the rest of us. Utterly goofy and totally irresistible, MTSWSO has one other plus point worth mentioning: the various trailers for the movie utilise material that you won’t find in the actual feature. Trust me, I see a lot of trailers and this makes a refreshing change.

This film has, of course, been Oscar-nominated and – while I personally believe that Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio truly deserves to lift the ‘best animation’ gong – I won’t be totally surprised if a one-eyed shell beats everyone’s expectations. Whatever happens, this is a must-see.

But be warned: all but the most cynical will be in serious danger of falling head-over-heels for Marcel’s considerable charms.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney