Film

The Banshees of Insisherin

25/10/22

Cineworld, Edinburgh

Last week, I finally managed to catch up with Martin McDonagh’s debut play, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, at the Traverse Theatre – and now here’s his latest cinematic offering, which itself started life as a play, the projected third piece in his Aran Islands trilogy. For various reasons, McDonagh wasn’t happy with it in its original form, so it was never released. He should be delighted, however, with the critical reception for The Banshees of Inisherin, where important voices have been talking about potential Oscar nominations.

It’s 1923 and the titular island is a remote and inaccessible place. Across the water on the mainland, a civil war is raging and, even from a distance, the sound and fury can be overheard. But here there’s precious little to occupy the inhabitants, who spend their days trying to grub some kind of living from the soil. Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell) lives with his sister, Siobhan (Kerry Condon), and he’s a man who likes to follow a routine. Every day at 2 pm, it’s his custom to call on his best friend, Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson), and accompany him to the local pub for a couple of pints.

He’s understandably shocked when one day Colm announces that he doesn’t want to be friends with Pádraic anymore. Colm claims that his regular drinking companion is the dullest man on the island and that he wishes to devote the rest of his life to writing his music. Pádraic is never to speak a word to him again – and, if he does, there will be terrible consequences…

Pádraic is hit for six by this announcement and haplessly tries to rescue the situation – but he has no idea how far Colm is prepared to go in order that his edict is followed.

Banshee’s theatrical origins are evident from the opening scenes and it’s clear that here is a piece that could work very effectively on stage, though the beautiful rural settings do help to open the story up to wider horizons. McDonagh’s ear for absurdist black humour has rarely been better and the plot, which sounds slight on paper, is filled with fascinating nuance. McDonagh has plenty to say about the insular psyche of island communities, an unforgiving world where everyone knows everyone else’s business and is happy to discuss it in public. Both Farrell and Gleeson make the most of their acting reunion, fourteen years after In Bruges, though I would suspect Farrell’s performance as the vulnerable Pádraic is the most Oscar-worthy of the two. Both Condon and Barry Keoghan (as, respectively, Siobhan and the tragic Dominic) may be worthy of ‘best supporting’ nods.

The Banshees of Inisherin is a beautifully observed contemplation of the thankless futility of human existence. Colm is stubborn and self-aggrandising, locked in hopeless dreams of being remembered after his death. Pádraic, meanwhile, is incapable of dealing with anything that compromises his preferred schedule.

Only Siobhan has the courage to change her life, but even that simple act – it turns out – has dark consequences.

4.6 Stars

Philip Caveney

Jack Absolute Flies Again

18/10/22

The Cameo, Edinburgh

Daytime cinema always feels like playing hooky. A sign that – for today – fun has priority. And NT Live screenings have the same ‘getting away with something’ vibe. I’m watching a play in London, but – shhh, whisper it – I haven’t left Edinburgh. So this afternoon’s indulgence, Jack Absolute Flies Again, is the double whammy: a National Theatre production at lunch time on a Tuesday! And in our favourite picture house too…

Based on Sheridan’s The Rivals, Richard Bean and Oliver Chris’s production exemplifies ‘rollicking’. It’s a silly, frothy, feelgood piece of theatre – and I absolutely love it.

The action has moved from the late 18th century to the early 20th – specifically to World War 2 – and Malaprop Mansion has been requisitioned by the RAF. The titular Jack (Laurie Davidson) is a pilot, stationed in the grounds. He’s in love with fellow pilot, Lydia Languish (Natalie Simpson), who just happens to live in the mansion with her aunt, Mrs Malaprop (Caroline Quentin). Lydia, however, is infatuated with northern mechanic, Dudley Scunthorpe (Kelvin Fletcher), who, in turn, has a thing for Lydia’s maid, Lucy (Kerry Howard). Throw in a couple of other pilots vying for Lydia’s attention, a jealous fiancé and the ever-present spectre of death (these are military people, after all), not to mention Mrs Malaprop’s attraction to Jack’s father, Sir Anthony Absolute (Peter Forbes), and you’ve got quite the heady mix…

This comedy of errors is beautifully handled, all knowing nods to the audience, and perfectly executed groan-out-loud jokes. Sure, we can see the punchlines coming from cruising height, but that’s the point: the laughs are garnered in the gap, the moment when we know what’s coming before it lands. Quentin is particularly funny, clearly relishing the Malapropisms that litter her speech. They are so plentiful they make Sheridan look positively restrained, but their abundance works, again prompting us to pre-empt what she might say (Chekhov’s clematis, if you will). Howard also proves to have that comic edge, and I like her character’s frequent references to the theatricality of the piece, reminding the audience of the genre and what they ought to expect.

The set is delightful: all bucolic beauty and architectural elegance. Its chocolate box design suits the tone of the piece, and I especially like the doll’s house effect, when the mansion opens to reveal the rooms within. Ironically, the only things that don’t translate well to the cinema are, well, the cinematic sequences. I’m sure they’re impactful in the vast Olivier auditorium, but they are diminished by the live-screening process.

The ending is something of a shock, deliberately jarring. I won’t go into any detail (no spoilers here), but – on reflection – I think it works. It’s a brave choice, but probably the only one that makes sense, given the context. It feels tonally different from the rest of the piece, but I guess that’s the point. We all plod along, don’t we, dealing with the minutiae while the big stuff happens around us. Until…

There are a few more ‘encore’ screenings of Jack Absolute over the next month or so. If you’re in need of a laugh, take advantage of NT Live and give your local cinema a much-needed boost at the same time. You won’t regret it.

4.2 stars

Susan Singfield

The Lost King

07/10/22

Cineworld, Edinburgh

The Lost King is based on a true story – how a woman called Philippa Langley came to be the driving force behind the discovery of the remains of King Richard III… underneath a council car park in Leicester. Written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope and directed by Stephen Frears (the team behind the excellent Philomena), the film relates how Langley (Sally Hawkins), an ‘ordinary woman’ living in Edinburgh, first becomes interested in the last of the Plantagenet kings, while watching a performance of Shakespeare’s eponymous play. The titular role is performed by a young actor (Harry Lloyd) and thereafter, Langley experiences visions of ‘Richard’, who seems to be waiting for her to do something.

Much to the bemusement of her ex-husband, John (Coogan), and her two young sons, Langley’s interest quickly develops into a full-blown obsession. She reads everything she can find about Richard, she joins a group of local enthusiasts and, eventually , she finds herself in Leicester and that fateful car park. After making her way a spot helpfully marked by a large letter R, she becomes convinced that she’s standing on Richard’s grave.

I know. If this hadn’t actually happened it would be risible. But it did happen, so get over it.

Convinced she’s right, Langley approaches archeologist Richard Buckley (Mark Addy) at Leicester University, and persuades him to help her to organise an excavation of the car park. But where are the funds going to come from?

The film has stirred up some controversy by suggesting that, although Langley was undoubtedly the prime mover behind the campaign to find Richard – she actually raised most of the money via crowdfunding – she was latterly sidelined by Leicester University, who monopolised the subsequent discovery and dismissed her as an ‘amateur’. One man in particular, Richard Taylor (played here by Lee Ingleby), comes across as especially unpleasant and the real Taylor, former Vice Chancellor of the university, is currently threatening legal action. Surely it would have been kinder at least to give the character a different name? (This would also have avoided having yet another Richard in the story.)

Whatever the truth of the case, this is a fascinating story about self-belief and perseverance. I like the fact that Langley is not deified here, but presented as a far from perfect individual, selfishly devoting everything to her obsession, no matter what the cost to herself or her family. And I like the device of having Richard as part of the ongoing adventure, offering a little more depth to the proceedings.

While the whereabouts of a long-dead body is arguably low-stakes, recent events have shown how pageantry, pomp and circumstance really seem to matter to huge swathes of the population, and it’s always a delight to see Edinburgh (my home city) depicted onscreen in all its glory – even when, in certain scenes, it’s pretending to be Leicester!

3.8 stars

Philip Caveney

Blonde

03/10/22

Netflix

Andrew Dominik’s Blonde, based on a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, is an art film with a capital ‘A’. Given a running time close to three hours and presented in a whole variety of aspect ratios, it purports to be the inside story of Norma Jeane Baker – or Marilyn Monroe, as she’s better known. One overriding message comes through loud and clear: if there were any joyful moments in the star’s life, they were few and far between. This is the tale of a young woman who is repeatedly betrayed and brutalised by just about everybody she comes into contact with.

We first encounter her as a little girl (Lily Fisher), living with her abusive, disturbed mother, Gladys (Julianne Nicholson), who nearly ends both their lives by driving headlong into the midst of a bush fire. As an opening, it’s powerful and arresting – but from this point, the story takes a seismic jump through time, where we discover Norma/Marilyn (Ana de Armas) chasing roles in Hollywood, largely by allowing herself to be thrown down onto the casting couch and horribly abused by unnamed ‘producers’. The problem here is that Dominik, who also wrote the screenplay, seems to assume that everybody watching is going to be so well versed in Monroe’s career that we’ll instinctively know who’s who. It’s not always easy to follow and, for those not in the know, it’s hard work.

The overall theme here is about father issues. From the beginning, Norma Jeane’s Mother shows her photographs of a mysterious man who, she claims, is her father, once a big star in Hollywood movies. Norma Jeane consequently spends most of her life searching for him, even calling her various partners ‘Daddy’. The story leaps back and forth in time and we’re given insights into her doomed marriage to Joe Di Maggio (or ‘Ex-Athlete’, as Bobby Cannavale’s character is billed) and her equally ill-fated relationship with ‘The Playwright’ (Adrien Brody, looking the dead spit of Arthur Miller).

This is hardly a fun-filled ride. We see a harrowing abortion scene, which definitely feels pitched as an anti-abortion polemic, and there’s an equally horrible account of the miscarriage Monroe suffers while married to Arthur Miller. A brief and sordid encounter between Monroe and ‘The President’ (Caspar Philipson) is about as repugnant a sex scene as I’ve ever witnessed.

As if in an attempt to lighten the mix, there are accomplished recreations of several of Monroe’s most iconic film roles, but the swings in tone are extreme and it feels suspiciously like being alternately sprinkled with sugar and dragged through a cess pit.

Ana de Armass offers an accomplished performance in the lead role, inhabiting Monroe’s manic persona with great skill – but Blonde feels increasingly like a big bumper pack of fireworks, occasionally shooting off fabulous cinematic dazzlers but, more often than not, offering a selection of damp squibs. What’s more, the film would benefit I think, from a more stringent edit, cutting out those slower sections where the story is allowed to drag.

It’s worth seeing, but be warned – it’s not the straightforward biopic that you might expect.

3.6 stars

Philip Caveney

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

30/09/22

Cineworld, Edinburgh

I am poorly when I see the 1992 teleplay, Mrs ‘Arris Goes to Paris, nursing a cold. I am lying on my sofa with the TV on, drifting in and out of sleep. At one point, I wake up, and there are Angela Lansbury, Diana Rigg, and, wait, is that Fred from Corrie? Is this a fever dream? I find myself engaging with the story, and watching through to the end. On occasion, I mention it to friends, but nobody has ever heard of it. They look at me sceptically. I let it go…

So I’m weirdly excited about this latest iteration of the tale, which I now know is based on a novel by Paul Gallico. Lesley Manville stars as the titular Mrs Harris (her ‘H’ restored), with Isabelle Huppert and Jason Isaacs as the big name support.

It’s London, 1957. Ada Harris knows in her heart that she’s a war widow, but she’s been waiting years for Eddie’s death to be confirmed. In the meantime, she’s working as a charwoman, cleaning up after a succession of indolent rich folk. She’s not unhappy exactly: she has a busy social life, drinking, dancing and ‘going to the dogs’ with her friends, Violet (Ellen Thomas) and Archie (Isaacs). But something is missing and, when Ada catches a glimpse of an exquisite couture gown in Lady Dant (Anna Chancellor)’s bedroom, she realises exactly what that missing something is…

A posh frock from Paris is beyond Mrs Harris’s slender means, but she’s a determined woman, and sets to with admirable grit, making savings wherever she can. Take the bus to work? No, not when she can walk. And what does she need with evenings out? Better to spend the time altering and repairing people’s clothes, bringing in a few extra shillings. Despite her hard work, however, that Dior dress is still way out of reach.

Until a series of fortunate events occurs, and – of course – she’s off to Paris! (Come on, that’s hardly a spoiler; it’s literally in the title.) The streets of the French capital appear to be paved with litter (there’s a bin strike, which we citizens of Edinburgh can certainly relate to), but Ada rises easily above the stink. She’s having the time of her life, and – with the help of André (Lucas Bravo), Natasha (Alba Baptista) and the dashing Marquis de Chassagne (Lambert Wilson) – she’s rediscovering her mojo. Sure, Mme Colbert (Huppert) is a bit sneery, and Mme Avallon (Guilaine Londez) seems to view her as an enemy, but so what? A couture gown is on its way; what could possibly go wrong?

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris is essentially a fairytale, although it’s not very grim. It’s a frothy concoction, signifying little, but it’s eminently watchable, with warm, engaging characters, and a satisfying (if predictable) story arc. Under Anthony Fabian’s direction, this primarily Hungarian production (no, I don’t know why either) is beautifully shot, and Felix Wiedemann’s cinematography really captures the ethereal beauty of the clothes, so vital to the tale. It’s refreshing to see a love story that doesn’t patronise an older woman, and I’m pleased that the ‘fish out of water’ stuff is played down. Ada is independent: she has lived alone through a war and is used to city life, and she mixes with all kinds. It’s no surprise that she can hold her own in a Parisian restaurant, nor that she’s unfazed by the unfamiliar etiquette of a Dior fashion show. Perhaps the most important theme is one of societal change: just as the political elite in Paris have to accept that the workers won’t settle for poverty wages any more, neither will Ada continue to put up with late payments and disrespect from her employers. The war was a real turning point, and its longterm implications are starting to be felt.

I don’t really know how this compares to the teleplay, because I wasn’t fully compos mentis when I was watching that, but I do know that it’s more enjoyable to see Mrs Harris finding her dream dress when I’m not in a Lemsip fug. And at the cinema too, which is always better (true fact, no counter-arguments accepted).

3.8 stars

Susan Singfield

Don’t Worry Darling

23/09/22

Cineworld, Edinburgh

Don’t Worry Darling. Well, it’s hard not to worry. Specifically, it’s hard not to worry about the missing comma. You know, the ‘direct address’ comma? I don’t like writing Don’t Worry Darling without it. It looks wrong, but I can’t add it in because it’s not there in the official title. Don’t tell me it’s not important or not to sweat the small stuff. I can’t help it. Punctuation matters, Grandma.

Still, taking a deep breath and moving past the title, Don’t Worry, Darling (sorry) is – for the most part – a very engaging film. Florence Pugh stars as Alice, a Stepford-style wife living in the Stepford-style town of Victory, an idyll in the middle of an unforgiving desert. That is, if your idea of an idyll is the sexist 1950s, where the men go to work (all at the same place, the – er – top secret Victory project) and the women stay at home, their daytime hours spent shopping, boozing and ballet dancing. Oh, and cooking and cleaning, which might sound like a downside, but these women really, really enjoy their household chores…

Alice and her husband, Jack (Harry Styles), seem even happier than all the other happy people – they can’t keep their hands off each other, and who cares if dinner ends up on the floor, when there’s frantic sex on the menu? Okay, so there are regular small earthquakes disrupting their peace, and Alice’s friend, Margaret (KiKi Layne) keeps trying to tell everyone that something’s wrong, but Dr Collins (Timothy Simons) assures them all that she’s not well; there’s nothing to worry about. Darling. Victory’s founder, Frank (Chris Pine), has everything in hand. Aren’t they lucky to be here? They can trust him. Can’t they?

But then Alice witnesses a plane crash, and – desperate to help – she ventures up to the forbidden Victory HQ. And what she sees there changes everything…

Olivia Wilde’s sophomore movie isn’t quite up there with Booksmart, but there’s a lot to admire here. It’s an ambitious project, riffing on The Matrix as much as the aforementioned The Stepford Wives, as well as The Truman Show and Valley of the Dolls. The script (by Katie Silberman) is also thematically close to Laura Wade’s similarly-titled stage play, Home, I’m Darling, in that it exposes the myth behind the glamorous image of the 1950s – the pastel colours, stockings and champagne cocktails (perfectly evoked by cinematographer Matthew Libatique) mask myriad miseries, particularly for women trapped in the domestic realm.

Pugh’s performance is flawless, and Styles does well in the supporting role. Pine is genuinely scary, his slick smile doing little to conceal Frank’s coercive nature, and Gemma Chan, as his wife, Shelley, is a suitably chilling accomplice. Wilde herself plays Bunny, a playful, hard-drinking woman, and Alice’s closest friend. It’s an interesting dynamic, and the set up is beautifully managed.

Unfortunately, the unravelling is less well-handled, and several gaping plot holes emerge along with the revelations. This is a shame, because the first two thirds promise so much, but the complex unveiling is too quick, too told. I am left with too many questions, and not in a good way.

Another half hour, a little more detail, some attention paid to the ‘but how?’ and Don’t Worry Darling could be much better than it is.

3.6 stars

Susan Singfield

Moonage Daydream

20/09/22

Cineworld IMAX, Edinburgh

Anyone expecting a straightforward biography of the late David Bowie is in for a surprise. Brett Morgan’s art film (I hesitate to use the word ‘documentary’) is as experimental as anything I’ve seen in a very long while, a pulsing kaleidoscopic collection of vivid images and found footage, propelled by some of the most memorable rock songs ever committed to acetate.

In its peculiar way, it’s as elusive and enigmatic as its subject.

I was twenty when I first heard The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, already a little too old to be completely captivated by his androgynous alter ego, but it’s here that the film opens – with Bowie at the height of his fame, pursued everywhere by adoring fans, working-class kids doing their level best (and mostly failing) to appropriate his ‘look’. We learn only a little about his earliest years and there’s no mention of the infamous Angie, to whom he was married for a tumultuous decade. Morgan prefers to let the music do the talking, while the screen explodes with a myriad visual references: the films; the books; the paintings; the actors; the locations that influenced Bowie, that made him what he became – a rock chameleon, inhabiting a whole series of different personae, constantly reinventing ways to take an audience by surprise.

Viewed on the IMAX screen, the result is immersive, hypnotic, even overwhelming at times and, on the few occasions when Bowie is allowed to deliver an entire song, I’m thrilled by how contemporary it sounds. Of course his gender-fluidity was way ahead of the curve, but so too was the music, visiting places where few others dared to tread. And his presence here seems predominantly to be that of the wanderer, always on the move, visiting an endless list of new locations, always on the lookout for what can be assimilated into his ‘new’ sound. It’s interesting to note that it’s only when he finds happiness (through his marriage to Iman) that his music finally begins to lose its dangerous edge.

Some will find this too much of an assault on the senses, but for my money it serves as a fitting – and long overdue – tribute to one of the most remarkable performers in music history. And those who choose to come along simply to hear his best songs performed in Dolby stereo won’t be disappointed.

4.4 stars

Philip Caveney

Bodies Bodies Bodies

18/09/22

Cineworld, Edinburgh

Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) brings her new squeeze, Bee (Maria Baklova), along to a house party at the family home of her old friend, the odious David (Pete Davidson). From the outset, it’s kind of awkward because it’s clear that David and his other house guests haven’t been expecting Sophie, let alone her new partner. In fact, the others – Alice (Rachel Sennot), Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) and Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) – all have their own reasons for not wanting to see her.

The final member of the group is Greg (Lee Pace), a traveller who has been picked up by Emma somewhere along the way. He’s that most dangerous of things: an unknown quantity.

When Sophie suggests a game of Bodies Bodies Bodies (a version of Murder in the Dark), everybody seems ready to give it a go, but – as a tropical storm descends on the area and the electricity and WiFi cut out – old tensions and rivalries start to bubble to the surface. And it doesn’t help that David clearly feels threatened by Greg’s overt masculinity.

And then one of the guests stumbles out of the night with a severed jugular vein…

If the premise of Bodies Bodies Bodies sounds depressingly ‘seen it all before’, take heart because Halina Rejign’s tightly directed feature, written by Sarah DeLappe and Kristen Roupenian, puts a new spin on a very familiar scenario. Shot mostly using only the lights of mobile phones and torches, this somehow manages to make you care about the fates of a bunch of pretty unlikable characters and the snarky dialogue is often unexpectedly funny. As the weather worsens and the body count rises, so the characters’ paranoia steadily mounts – and it’s only when the slay-ride reaches it’s final destination that I realise I’ve been cleverly misdirected.

While it won’t linger in the memory for long, Bodies Bodies Bodies is a fun-filled hour and a half that keeps me gripped right up to its conclusion. What more can you ask of such a slim premise?

4 stars

Philip Caveney

Hatching

17/09/22

Cineworld, Edinburgh

Hatching (or Pahanhautoja) is Finnish writer/director Hanna Bergholm’s feature debut, a coming-of-age horror that follows a well-trodden path, but also positions us firmly in the here and now – and does so with panache.

Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) is a sweet-natured tween gymnast. We first encounter her via her mum (Sophia Heikkilä)’s Lovely Everyday Life vlog, where Tinja is shown smiling as she practises, stretching and bending, before cuddling up on the family sofa in their beautifully decorated suburban home. But the carefully curated perfection is brutally disrupted by the appearance of a bird, which wreaks destruction as it flaps, terrified, around the room, breaking all manner of delicate glass ornaments. Not to worry: Tinja’s mum knows exactly how to deal with things that don’t suit the image she wants to project. “We can crop it out,” she says, of Tinja’s foot, when it isn’t pointed properly. It turns out her ruthlessness extends to birds – and their necks.

As Tinja struggles to reach the standard required for a big gymnastics competition, we start to see just how pushy her mum really is, and her dad (Jani Volanen) is too weak to help. Her little brother, Matias (Oiva Ollila), only makes things worse, teasing and goading his sister, as younger siblings are wont to do. So when Tinja catches her mum kissing Tero (Reino Nordin), the guy who’s come to repair their chandelier – broken by the bird – it’s all a bit too much. “It can be our secret,” says her mum, making Tinja complicit in the affair. Tinja nods and blinks back tears – then heads out into the forest, where she finds an egg. And now she has a secret of her own…

It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that what hatches is a doppelgänger – because that’s the whole point of the tale. “Alli” is Bertha, Mr Hyde and Frankenstein’s monster: she is Tinja’s rage made flesh. And, try as she might, Tinja can’t control Alli…

Hatching is a stylish, unsettling film, and the cinematography (by Jarkko T. Laine) really cements the disconnect between the lavishly filtered vlog and murky reality. The soundtrack (by Stein Berge Svendsen) is eerie and haunting: it’s discomfiting, and disrupts any sense of harmony, however carefully Tinja’s mum tries to manufacture it. And Solalinna is mesmerising in the lead role: at once innocent and steely, victim and victor.

There are some issues though. The allegory feels a little heavy-handed at times, and some of the imagery is a bit on the nose. Alli’s early incarnations look, well, silly, rather than frightening, and the horror diminishes in intensity over the course of the story, rather than building. The ending comes with a whimper rather than a bang and, because we’re never shown how events impact either on the family or the outside world, the stakes just aren’t high enough.

In the end, Hatching feels like exactly what it is: an imperfect but promising first attempt. I’ll certainly be keen to see what Bergholm comes up with next.

3.4 stars

Susan Singfield

See How They Run

14/09/22

Cineworld, Edinburgh

The recent success of Rian Johnson’s Knives Out seems to have rekindled a cinematic interest in whodunits. Johnson’s sequel, Glass Onion, is due out soon (on Netflix) but, meanwhile, on the big screen there’s See How They Run, a lighthearted spin on the genre, directed by Tom George (previously best known for TV’s This Country) and written by Mark Chappell.

It’s 1953 and Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is already approaching its one hundredth performance. Moves are afoot to turn it into a motion picture, spearheaded by odious American screenwriter Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody) who wants the chosen screenwriter, Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo), to amp up the sex and violence to make it more screen-worthy. Okay, so there is a clause in the play’s contract, stating that it can never make the transition into film until its theatrical run has ended… but that won’t be long, surely?

Kopernick quickly winds up dead (don’t worry, this is in no way a spoiler) and suspicion initially falls on Cocker-Norris. But, as rumpled, hard-drinking Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) soon begins to discover, there are lots of people in the cast and crew who have reasons to bear a grudge – and anyway, he has his hands pretty full with his over-eager assistant, Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan).

See How They Run is a tremendously likeable film, virtually stuffed to the gills with big-name actors having a ball in small roles, many of them based on real life characters. Harris Dickinson offers a nicely judged Richard Attenborough (who starred in The Mousetrap‘s original production) and Pearl Chanda is excellent too as his wife and co-star, Sheila Sim. Rockwell does a suitably world-weary turn as Stoppard, but for my money it’s Ronan who really makes this fly, creating an absolutely adorable character, determined to make her mark in a world that has until now been entirely dominated by men. Plaudits should also go to comedian Tim Key, who does a brilliant job of embodying a loathsome police commissioner.

As you might expect, the script is as meta as you like, with plenty of in-jokes and sly references for theatrical fans to pick up on – but, more importantly perhaps, this is funny throughout, with some perfectly timed pratfalls thrown in for good measure. While it’s hardly destined to linger for long in a viewer’s mind, it’s nonetheless a very pleasant way to spend a well-paced hour and thirty-eight minutes.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney