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Review: Grow Your Own, The Chronicles of Narnia- Prince Caspian and The Jammed

By June 26, 2008December 31st, 2013No Comments

Grow Your Own posterThe allot­ment is one of the United Kingdom’s greatest achieve­ments, unre­peated I believe any­where else. In exchange for mov­ing in to shoe­boxes stacked upon each oth­er the British poor were giv­en a back garden some­where else – a nearby shared field con­ver­ted into small plots where they could grow some food and still exper­i­ence some­thing of a life out­doors, con­nec­ted to the sea­sons. And who could have guessed that, at the same time, the allot­ment could also be such an effect­ive meta­phor for life in mod­ern England.

In Richard Laxton’s film Grow Your Own, the spare plots at a Liverpool allot­ment are being alloc­ated to refugees, to help them adjust to life in their new coun­try and give them some­thing to do dur­ing the oth­er­wise long days. The loc­als, led by ex-cop Big John (Philip Jackson) with the help of his down­trod­den son Little John (Eddie Marsan from Happy-Go-Lucky), don’t like the idea of their patch being invaded by “gypos” and turn a cold shoulder to their new neighbours.

When a mobile phone com­pany arrives want­ing one of the plots for a new mast the loc­als see an oppor­tun­ity to start throw­ing their weight around. Meanwhile, Chinese refugee Kung Sang (Benedict Wong), broken by the loss of his wife dur­ing their jour­ney, dis­cov­ers a kind of rebirth via the soil and shark fin melon.

Grow Your Own is the best of the three con­tem­por­ary UK films released in the last month (Happy-Go-Lucky and Brick Lane are the oth­ers). An excel­lent script by Carl Hunter and Frank Cottrell Boyce (24 Hour Party People and Welcome to Sarajevo) con­tains plenty of divert­ing com­ic moments while nev­er los­ing sight of the human stor­ies unfold­ing close at hand, remind­ing us that Social Workers may well be the her­oes of the 21st century.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian poster

The strengths of Grow Your Own (good char­ac­ters with story devel­op­ments driv­en out of those char­ac­ters, or rather the char­ac­ter of those char­ac­ters if I may) can also be found in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, the excel­lent sequel to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe from 2005. It helps that CS Lewis knew what he was doing when he wrote the books but there’s some­thing very sat­is­fy­ing about see­ing a story moved for­ward, seem­ingly inev­it­ably, by the nature of the char­ac­ters. Peter’s pride, Lucy’s faith, Edmund’s ADD and Susan’s hor­mones all play a part in either get­ting the chil­dren in to or out of trouble as they return to Narnia after a year in Finchley.

1300 years of Narnia time after they left they have been summoned back by Susan’s magic horn, now in the pos­ses­sion of young Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes). Caspian is the right­ful heir to the Telmarine throne but his Uncle (King Miraz, played superbly by Italian favour­ite Sergio Castellitto) wants him out of the way. To make things worse, the Telmarines don’t even belong in Narnia but are fas­cist invaders who have forced the talk­ing anim­als and myth­ic­al creatures into hid­ing. Aslan, as you might expect, is nowhere to be found.

Caspian chugs along at an excel­lent pace and the whole thing is sprinkled with plenty of wit. The cast­ing is superb: Castellitto as I have already men­tioned; Peter Dinklage must be sick of play­ing dwarves but he won’t find a bet­ter one than Trumpkin; Eddie Izzard is the voice of the very amus­ing Reepicheep, mouse mus­ket­eer, and I just loved Trufflehunter the badger (Ken Stott).

The Jammed posterAustralian thrill­er The Jammed is a tightly-wound piece of work about people-trafficking and pros­ti­tu­tion in present day Melbourne. Not quite as spir­itu­ally des­ol­at­ing as the sim­il­ar Lilya 4‑ever, it still effect­ively mines the same rage. Through a series of (pos­sibly unlikely) coin­cid­ences, young office work­er Ashley (Veronica Sywak) is help­ing a Chinese woman find her miss­ing daugh­ter. The trail leads to an illeg­al brothel where “Rose” (Anna Anderson), strung out on drugs, shares a room with “Crystal” (Emma Lung) and Vanya (Saskia Burmeister), all of whom have been conned, traf­ficked into Australia and then kept out of sight of all except cli­ents and bosses.

If the film is cor­rect, and these people are treated not as vic­tims of a hein­ous human rights viol­a­tion but as illeg­al immig­rants and locked away in deten­tion centres, then it is anoth­er stain on Australia’s record and I hope it isn’t true.

Finally this week, tick­ets for the 36th Wellington Film Festival went on sale Tuesday and the pro­gramme was launched last week with a screen­ing of Marjane Satrapis’ excel­lent anim­ated auto­bi­o­graphy, Persepolis, about grow­ing up either side of the Iranian Islamic revolu­tion. Recommended.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 25 June, 2008.

I have linked to it, above, but would like to draw your atten­tion to NZ play­wright Gary Henderson’s 2002 inter­view with Frank Cottrell Boyce, con­duc­ted while both were at the Cannes Film Festival.