Genova (M)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner25/03/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Haunting, suspenseful and powerfully emotional, this is a brilliantly directed drama with terrific performances from Firth, Holland and Haney-Jardine.

What's it all about?
Directed by Michael Winterbottom, Genova stars Colin Firth as Joe, a university lecturer who accepts a teaching job in Genova and moves there with his two daughters – 16-year-old Kelly (Willa Holland) and her younger sister Mary (Perla Haney-Jardine) – after the tragic death of their mother in a car accident. As they adjust to life in a new city, Mary feels responsible for the accident and is haunted by nightmares, while Kelly seeks secret solace in a new world of beaches, boys and motorbikes.

With Joe distracted by both his new job and the attentions of an attractive student (Margherita Romeo as Rosa) and Kelly enjoying la dolce vita, Mary decides not to tell them when she starts having visions of her mother (Hope Davis), instead confiding in Joe's friend Barbara (Catherine Keener). But do the visions have Mary's best interests at heart?

The Good
The performances are terrific, particularly Haney-Jardine, who's utterly charming and genuinely heartbreaking in her nightmare scenes. Holland is equally good and proves that she could have a substantial post-The O.C. career (she was Marissa's evil sister), while Firth is perfectly cast as the father trying to keep a lid on his grief for the sake of his children.

In addition, the interaction between the three leads is believable and extremely well handled. There's also strong support from Keener and Davis, whose casual, smiley appearances in the later stages of the film are weirdly unsettling.

The Great
Winterbottom films everything with hand-held video cameras, using lots of tight close-ups, which lends the film a powerful intimacy. He also makes splendid use of Genova's dark, narrow passageways and orchestrates some genuinely suspenseful scenes (the passageway scenes recall Don't Look Now, while a scene where a stoned teenager gives Kelly a lift home is heart-stoppingly tense).

Worth seeing?
Genova is an impressively directed, superbly acted and sharply written drama that packs a powerful emotional punch. Highly recommended.

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Genova (M)
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Content updated: 16/06/2019 23:42

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