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Ben Austwick [Celluloid 03.05.09] movie review scifi thriller drama fantasy romance

Year: 2008
Directors: Gerald McMorrow
Writers: Gerald McMorrow
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ben austwick
Rating: 6 out of 10

Moving between four disconnected storylines and two very different worlds, Franklyn is a confusing and seemingly aimless exercise in experimentation that nevertheless comes together in the end. Despite suffering a surfeit of cliches that will have any veteran viewer of British cinema rolling their eyes, its unusual premise and entertaining richness make it an enjoyable if undemanding movie.

The film opens in Meanwhile City, a dark CGI metropolis that despite some impressive gothic architecture owes a little too much to its cinematic predecessors to be truly impressive, populated by Gilliam-esque steampunk characters that similarly lack an original edge, top hats and yellow contact lenses being all the rage. Our contact in Meanwhile City is the titular Franklyn, a masked atheist fugitive on the run from the sinister Clerics, policemen who enforce a strict religious code that requires everyone to follow a religion, no matter how barmy it is.

We are plucked suddenly from this interesting premise and deposited in the streets of modern day London, a disorientating experience that gets no less perplexing as the film progresses, flitting between the two all the while. Although the towering Gothic madness of Meanwhile City is often juxtaposed brilliantly with London's low, gunmetal grey skyline, a lack of connections between the two serves to confuse rather than intrigue and you never quite get over the feeling you are watching two separate films.

The rich, exciting and no doubt expensive to film Meanwhile City slowly takes a back seat to scenes shot in London until it is practically phased out of the film altogether, an unfortunate turn of events given that Franklyn's worst cinematic crimes are committed in the capital. Like a lot of British film and television drama Franklyn retreats to the safe but tiresome world of white upper middle-class London to play out its finer plot points, an eye-rollingly familiar city of gentrified side streets, trendy interiors, pretty girls in dresses and beer swilling comical "mates" that appeals to certain audiences in a soothing way, but inspires only anger and hatred in my mind. Perhaps I'm indulging one of my own pet hates here, but it strikes me that a city as interesting and diverse as London has a lot more to offer cinematically than this tired old cliché.

This is mitigated a little by above-par acting, as you would expect from a Film 4 production, and engaging if light storylines that keep you guessing at how the film could conclude. More importantly, despite a bit of flabbiness in the middle section it is entertaining stuff, moving along at a decent pace in a film that at a hundred minutes running time doesn't outstay its welcome.

The ending pulls off the difficult trick of being both unexpected and plausible, and although a few threads are left hanging loosely it's a satisfying enough conclusion. It's all a bit meaningless and inconsequential though, a plot that exists for its own sake rather than to say anything in particular or provoke thought, which given the quite serious issue it hinges on actually felt a little tasteless. The fact remains though that Franklyn is an entertaining and enjoyable enough film despite its flaws, and its unusual structure is enough to make it worth seeing for anyone who takes their cinema a little more seriously.

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Anonymous (13 years ago) Reply

While I quite agree that Franklyn has elements we have seen before, Meanwhile City does present a striking likeness to something out of Mr Del Toro’s back Catalogue, this film should be given merit. Too often the British film industry is quite rightly met with a resounding sigh of disdain; releasing the usual romantic based bore. The film "Confetti" springs to mind, largely forgotten, and a box office misadventure. If not this the truly awful British gangster movie! I agree the constant flicking between Meanwhile and London is at times hard to follow and off putting, and the middle does go a little flat. Still we should commend the Director/writers and film 4 for presenting a British film that

1.At least tries to be a little bit smarter than your average Brit flick.

2.Shows you don’t need a tremendously huge budget to produce a good film.

3. For giving us hope that our film industry might just have a chance, beyond the ever reliable and entertaining James Bond.


Ben Austwick (13 years ago) Reply

Oh I agree and I certainly wouldn't want to put anyone off going to see it. But I think the British film industry is actually in a pretty healthy state, with great features like This is England and The Children - Franklyn needs to be compared to these rather than the likes of James Bond and Shane Ritchie, and it falls a little short.


Anonymous (13 years ago) Reply

Sorry, I meant films that were seen by a wider audience, though I do agree we can make great films! I cant agree with "This is England" but the Children does look very interesing! I think Roland Joffe was right in saying "There is no film industry in Britain. There are just individuals who've managed to do well". Take "This is England" Director Shane Meadows, he has done another film but we dont here about it in the wider world, our industry is just very fragmented.


Strange_Bundle (12 years ago) Reply

I was happy that someone managed to try this. An experiment of this magnitude, even if it fails in several points, deserves much more attention than it seems to have received. I'm still thinking about this film despite my intense dislike of many of the decisions that went into it, probably because it attempted so many things and managed to pull off much more than it should have.

Who else thinks this film would have been better served by the title "Meanwhile"?


Jason (12 years ago) Reply

I actually thought one of the most interesting characters was the artist, unfortunately for me, a lot of her story seemed pretty...dull. She's rebelling, huh? She's from a staid, repressed family? That's really it? Given that she's the only one who is able to connect with Franklyn (no spoilaz), I would rather have seen something a bit more bizarre in her background so that her bizarre artwork could be a little more sympathetic. As it is, I don't really care whether she completes a piece or not, although it's of enormous importance to her (and potentially the plot, depending on what importance you place on her role in the end.)


G Kane (12 years ago) Reply

Totally agree with Strange Bundle. The title is hopeless. This is not a movie about one person but four. I think the title should have been: The Moment in the Meanwhile. So dissappointing that such an interesting movie did not get the coverage it deserved.


knostik (11 years ago) Reply

My interpretation is that the film is about one 'individual.'
Imo, if you look at this film through Carl Jung's perspective on the nature of Self, and the process of indivuation, I believe you will find this film even more rewarding.


Anonymous (11 years ago) Reply

Franklyn is a great mObie but its message is as ambiguous as the title in a lit of ways. Personally I don't agree with this review in that I don't think franklyn is the masked antihero of meanwhile city, but rather the contents I'd the mysterious note that someho
w travels between modern London and meanwhile, which is where the admittedly convoluted Plotlines converge in what is a very fascinating c

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