out of Five
Running time: 107
Impressively directed, low-key drama that really gets under your skin, thanks to strong performances from its three leads.
What’s it all about?
Rip Torn (Patches O’Houlihan from Dodgeball) stars as Alan James, a Memphis music legend beloved for his work as a writer, producer and musician. Although happy with his young, Russian wife, Laura (Dina Korzun from Last Resort) and their three year-old son, James isn’t above a bit of extramarital groupie action.
While everyone’s preparing for a big party in Memphis, Laura finds a sympathetic ear in James’ grown-up son, Michael (Darren Burrows, from Northern Exposure) and they begin an affair.
Forty Shades of Blue is co-written and directed by Ira Sachs, who shoots the film in a low-key documentary style that’s reminiscent of Robert Altman. For a while, the camera simply follows the characters around and nothing much seems to happen, but eventually the performances begin to get under your skin.
Korzun is superb as Laura, gradually revealing the emotions beneath her seemingly impassive exterior and it’s quite a surprise when she finally takes action. Torn is equally good as James, a flawed man, trying to do his best. At the same time, the film is incredibly tense in places, particularly when James gets drunk.
The film’s unusual pace is initially off-putting and risks losing the attention of the audience, despite the strong character work. Similarly, the tense atmosphere doesn’t really build to anything, depriving us of the expected release and rendering the film’s climax strangely dissatisfying.
In short, Forty Shades of Blue is a difficult film to recommend thanks to its unusual, low-key approach, but it’s worth sticking with for its performances, particularly Rip Torn, who really ought to do more films.