out of Five
Running time: 98
Franklyn is a flawed but nonetheless fascinating thriller that ultimately succeeds thanks to an ambitious script, inventive direction, engaging performances and a gripping finale.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Gerald McMorrow, Franklyn opens with masked vigilante Jonathan Preest (Ryan Phillippe) hunting the leader of a death cult in the futuristic, noirish metropolis of Meanwhile City. Meanwhile, in contemporary London, three troubled and seemingly unconnected characters are all searching for something: Milo (Sam Riley) determines to track down his childhood sweetheart, Sally, after the failure of his engagement; Peter (Bernard Hill) searches for his Iraq veteran son, David, who has recently escaped from an institution; and depressed art student Emilia (Eva Green) abandons her video project of following random strangers and decides to film her own suicide attempts instead.
The script and direction are excellent – the audience swiftly guesses that Meanwhile City and London are linked in some way and McMorrow drops a series of subtle clues to the mystery as the film progresses, most notably in his use of recurring actors. Similarly, the film explores several interesting themes, such as fate, love, redemption, mental illness and the power of fantasy.
The performances are excellent. Eva Green is perhaps too perfectly cast as a depressed pretentious art student type, while Sam Riley and Bernard Hill are quietly impressive in less showy roles. Similarly, the production design of Meanwhile City is extremely impressive, though Preest's resembles Watchmen's Rorschach a bit too much.
McMorrow describes Franklyn as a moral fairytale for cynical times and your enjoyment of Franklyn will largely depend on how far you're prepared to buy into the fantasy aspects. Certainly the film is not without its flaws; Emilia's video project is so pretentious and embarrassing that it's unintentionally hilarious, while Susannah York is a little over the top as Emilia's mother, and its possible that the film's climax will infuriate some even as it delights others.
Franklyn is an ambitious, gripping and ultimately moving mystery thriller with a superb script, impressive direction and strong performances. Recommended.