Film: Also Showing

A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (15) James Ivory n Ever After (PG) Andy Tennant n Topless women Talk About Their Lives (nc) Harry Sinclair n Marquise (NC) Vera Belmont

BLAME THE rise of Ricki and Oprah and Jerry and Montell if you like, but the truth is that the only families whose stories make it onto our screens or bookshelves in the late 1990s are those who are dysfunctional and eager to prove it. There is no shortage of film-makers aiming their wrecking-balls at the homestead - notable demolition jobs poised to make a family near you squirm in their seats include Todd Solondz's Happiness, Francois Ozon's Sitcom and Hal Hartley's Henry Fool. Which makes A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, the new film from the team of James Ivory, Ismail Merchant and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, strangely refreshing, and something of a novelty.

The family at the centre of the picture isn't without its troubles or idiosyncrasies - do you think you would have grown up normal if you had grizzly old Kris Kristofferson for your dad, speaking threadbare French and acting macho while your mother, Barbara Hershey, flounced around Paris acting glamorous one minute and scrapping with your school-teacher the next? But the issues which propel the script, adapted by Ivory and Jhabvala from Kaylie Jones's autobiographical novel, are dislocation and adjustment: everyone in the film is looking to belong; they are each just a touch out of sync.

The most obviously displaced character is Benoit, a French boy adopted by the writer, Bill Willis (played by Kristofferson, but based on James Jones), and his wife, Marcella (Hershey), while they are living in Paris in the 1960s. Benoit chooses a different name for himself - Billy - and is taken under the wing of his new sister, Channe, but is constantly prone to feelings of alienation as he enters his teenage years. An audience accustomed to watching stories of families ripped apart by betrayal and abuse may be underwhelmed to find that these feelings don't manifest themselves very dramatically. Billy just wastes his days watching television. When things are really bad, he finds himself driven to ... grow a dubious goatee.

It is this very understatement which is so entrancing. I can't pretend that the picture adds up to much - in common with the film-makers' last collaboration, Surviving Picasso, it feels more like a series of unfinished sketches, an impression compounded by the anecdotal structure. One casualty of this is that characters such as the beguiling schoolboy opera singer, Francis (the wonderful newcomer, Anthony Roth Costanzo), who befriends Channe, are casually discarded.

But what gives the film its warmth is the leisurely and melancholy narrative rhythm; this is complemented in turn by the cinematographer Jean-Marc Fabre's watchful compositions which strongly recall De Sica's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, and by a clutch of sensitive, nuanced performances, particularly from the younger cast members, Leelee Sobieski and Jesse Bradford, as the teenage Channe and Billy respectively. Personally, I'm holding my breath for the director's cut, which will hopefully reveal more of the funky Salome which Channe and Francis attend, with its inflatable furniture, intravenous drug use and shots of Salome doing perfectly unspeakable things with John the Baptist's head. Dysfunctional, me?

Real family problems abound in another of the week's new releases, in which a daddy's girl (Drew Barrymore) is tormented by her beastly stepmother (Anjelica Huston) after her father's death, but finds hope in the arms of a handsome prince in a codpiece. This is Ever After - or, more accurately, Cinderella 90210.

Technically, the movie is a period piece, but the colloquial language and revisionist behaviour cause you to nervously anticipate the introduction of some 16th-century version of rollerblading or shopping malls. The film's irreverence can be engaging - the story accommodates Leonardo da Vinci, for instance, only to quickly relegate him to the role of blundering matchmaker. And the usual pleasures are all present and correct: ruddy-faced peasants, prickly pantomime turns from Huston and Richard O'Brien, coy romance between Barrymore and the Scottish actor, Dougray Scott, whose suitably dippy expressions banish all memories of him as a brutal cop in Twin Town. Ultimately, it's quite hard to see the point of the movie, although 10-year-old girls currently paralysed by a first crush will think it was made just for them.

You don't call a film Topless Women Talk About Their Lives unless you suspect that there is nothing very special about it and that it may very well sink without a trace. And so it transpires this is yet another independent comedy-drama about the lives and loves of modern urbanites - in this case, a pregnant woman musing on the identity of her baby's father, and a misogynistic writer, among others - shot on a meagre budget that was raised by the director selling his limbs or his children, and all set to a scratchy indie-pop soundtrack. At least it comes from New Zealand rather than New York. Does it have anything original to say about the tangle that men and women get themselves into when they try to understand each other? Take a wild guess.

RG

Sophie Marceau, writes Roger Clarke, delivers a sluttish glamour to the role of Marquise, an 18th-century actress and courtesan of the court of King Louis XIV of France - a society toast before being replaced by the next more fashionable model. Ridicule meets a bargain-basement All About Eve, this is a self-consciously bawdy romp through the fickle mores of actors as well as a cartoonish evocation of the age of Racine (a wooden Lambert Wilson, who falls in love with Marquise). Vera Belmont wrote and directed, but just can't squeeze enough out of her own script, despite the bottom-pinching caperings and cartwheels of her overly loveable characters.

All films are on release from tomorrow

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary