I like Eddie. One of the joys of watching the second season of ‘Ray Donovan’, as the Lovely Leigh and your scribe are currently experiencing, is seeing Eddie Marsan in the role of Ray’s brother, Terry. He’s perhaps the only remotely sane member of the Donovan clan, although he has his moments. For this Donovan life is pretty dour, the ex-boxer being affected by Parkinson’s. At least he can pride himself in having never thrown a fight. There’s little pride left for his siblings and crim father Mickey, though. For Terry there is a woman involved, his only salvation – we’re both hoping it turns out well for him. The two series have so far been compulsive viewing – and there’s a third on the way. Eddie was also exceptional in last year’s big screen minimalist treat ‘Still Life’. His performance was so nuanced and so ultimately moving.
In the new release, ‘X+Y’, Eddie M plays the genial coordinator of a group of teenage nerds billeted in Taiwan and about to represent the UK in the International Mathematics Olympiad. Eddie is not the lead here, nor is the role a stretch for the gifted character thesp, but his presence adds to the allure of this gem. Asa Butterfield, of ‘Hugo’ and ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ fame, as Nathan, gives a stellar performance, being the focus of the movie. He’s an autistic social misfit who can only make sense of his world in mathematical terms. So when love enters the equation, in the form of his Taipei exchange partner Zhang Mei (Jo Tang), he has no means to cope. This junior version of ‘A Beautiful Mind’ – in fact the film was rebranded ‘A Brilliant Young Mind’ for its US release – is choc full of struggling souls. There’s Nathan’s mother (Sally Hawkins), still reeling from the tragic death of her husband, the only person to really have a handle on Nathan. Enter a damaged, by disease and alcohol, teacher (Rafe Spall) who emerges as a love interest for the long-suffering mum. Then there are the various teens who accompany the maths freak to foreign shores – all seem to be carrying their own demons at an early age. Hawkins manages, as usual, to light up the screen in this, even if she’s devoid of all glamour. Young Jo Yang is the perfect foil for Nathan – how could he possibly not fall for her?
I like Omar. It would be impossible to do otherwise after his exuberant, larger than life force of nature turn in ‘The Intouchables’, the French super-hit of a few years back. Since then he’s been trying his luck in Hollywood, but returned to his home country to take the lead in the eponymous ‘Samba’. Although, in this offering, Omar Sy has a less effusive impact, his role is none the less magnetic. Sy’s character has managed to survive in Paris for ten years now, struggling to negotiate the red tape involved to achieve permanent residency whilst, at the same time, keeping a low profile. This means staying on the right side of the law. He dreads being shipped back to his native Senegal. In France the system offers hope for its illegals – something we in Oz could take a lesson from. Still, for Samba, it’s a hand to mouth existence, but hope is offered by novice immigration worker Alice, the always radiant Charlotte Gainsbourg. She’s recovering from a melt down of volcanic proportions – watch for the scene with the suits and their mobiles – and is not in a fit state to counter Samba’s overwhelming charms. At first their relationship is at arm’s length, but when he manages to get in deep do-do with the authorities and requires her assistance, they become more intimate.
There’s interest to be found in the underground economy of the cash-in-hand jobs Samba and his mates are forced to take on. For our vertigo afflicted lead, the one involving cleaning the windows of Parisian high-rises provides some light relief. Another delight is a free spirited performance from Tahar Rahim, so good in ‘The Past’, as his ‘Brazilian’ pal Wilson.
But it is Omar S’s performance that constantly dominates the screen with his hulking frame. It put me in mind of Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts’ Alain in ‘Rust and Bone’. Both have that certain something up there on the screen, but their future star vehicles will need to be tailored to their uniquely individual strengths.
The directors of both these movies (James Graham ‘X+Y’, Oliver Nakache and Eric Toledano ‘Samba’) take their art house audiences along the two narrative trails at a leisurely pace, minus the bells and whistles of much present day product. What they have come up with, though, are both out and out crowd-pleasers and will charm the socks off you. Do yourself a favour, eschew the hoopla of mega-budgeted multiplexes and take a look at this duo of quiet wonder.
‘X + Y’ Official movie Trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DueSeIWn2E
‘Samba’ official movie trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tqzwbjy0WQ