Alpha Male (15) <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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A decent, thoughtfully written chamber piece on bereavement among the English well-to-do. The first-time writer- director Dan Wilde shuttles elegantly between the past and present of a family broken apart by the untimely death of a beloved parent (Danny Huston). Jennifer Ehle plays the widow who finds solace with a new partner (Patrick Baladi), thus alienating her brattish son (Mark Wells) and disturbing the fragile sanity of her daughter (Amelia Warner). The latter has to carry the minor but maddening symbolism of the screenplay (the collapse of a treehouse is less than convincingly staged) but shares an intriguing by-play with a sinister aunt (Trudi Styler, also the film's producer), about whose treachery she has kept quiet for years.

The robo-Sloane 21st-birthday party of the last act will test the sympathy threshold of certain viewers, but Wilde is bold enough to remind us that even spoilt brats can legitimately yearn for a mother's love.

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