Wah-Wah (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner31/05/2006

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 97 mins

Engaging, deeply personal film with strong performances and impressive cinematography – this is an assured debut by Grant.

What’s it all about?
Richard E Grant’s autobiographical tale of his childhood in Swaziland stars Zachary Fox as the young Grant (renamed Ralph Compton), who sees his mother (Miranda Richardson) sleeping with one of his dad's (Gabriel Byrne) friends in the front seat of his car in 1969. The upshot of this is that his mother leaves, his father becomes an alcoholic and Ralph develops a rather nasty facial tic.

After a stint at boarding school Ralph returns to find that his dad has married Ruby (Emily Watson) a pretty American air hostess he has known for 6 weeks. Ralph and Ruby bond as his father’s alcoholism gets worse and matters aren’t helped by the sudden reappearance of his mother.

The Good
The title of the film comes from the nickname that Ruby gives to the hubbly jubbly wah wah English ex-pat community (in imitation of the way they speak) and the film is packed full of similar minor details that contribute strongly to the sense of time and place. In addition, Grant chose to shoot the film entirely on location in Swaziland, a decision that was rewarded with gorgeous scenery and stunning photography, courtesy of cinematographer Pierre Aim.

Hoult is particularly good, conveying Ralph’s deep emotional pain but also the joy he finds in his creative outlets (puppet shows, musicals, etc). Byrne is good too, managing to retain our sympathy despite frequently horrific drunken episodes.

The Great
However, it’s Watson who provides the real heart of the film. Her gradually developing relationship with Ralph is genuinely touching. In addition, there’s strong support from the likes of Celia Imrie and Julie Walters, as well as the bizarrely sexy Fenella Woolgar.

Worth seeing?
In short, Wah-Wah is an engaging, evocative and frequently moving film with strong performances and superb photography. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 19/07/2018 04:37

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