Brighton Rock, Rowan Joffe, 111 mins (15)
Rabbit Hole, John Cameron Mitchell, 99 mins (12A)

I’m sorry Pinkie, but this has bonkers stamped all the way through it

After Black Swan, I thought we'd seen the year's most bonkers melodrama, but I'd reckoned without Brighton Rock, a fabulously overripe adaptation of Graham Greene's razors'n'rosaries gangster novel.

It starts as a cheeky film-noir homage – all looming shadows and neck-craning camera angles – but it soon tips over into self-parody: no scene is complete until it's been stocked with rolling thunder, religious icons, and music so bombastic that Dr Frankenstein would have it on his laboratory iPod. By the time we've met Andy Serkis's pampered crime lord Mr Colleoni – a cross between Oscar Wilde and Jabba the Hutt – the whole thing is as camp as ... well, Brighton.

Then there are the mods and rockers. Rowan Joffe, the writer-director, has transposed the plot from 1939 to 1964, perhaps to distinguish it from the 1947 Boulting brothers' classic. He's tackled the period setting with typical restraint, kitting out a hotel lobby as if it were Austin Powers's boudoir, and having hundreds of scooters racing along the seafront. Weirdly, the mods then drive away, never to be seen again, so their only effect on the film is to make Pinkie and Rose's story seem like an insignificant sideshow.

Not that the main characters are very subtle themselves. Sam Riley, a decade too old for the role, gives Pinkie (right) an intriguing mixture of fear and menace, but most of the time he's such a growling, scowling psycho that it's hard to see why Rose doesn't run away at the earliest opportunity – unless, of course, she's a few coconuts short of a shy herself. And maybe she is. Andrea Riseborough's Rose goes from World's Frumpiest Waitress to knife-wielding, Biba-wearing co-dependent in the time it takes Pinkie to buy her a lemonade, so why should we care whether Helen Mirren and John Hurt's amateur sleuths can prise her from his clutches? All they're trying to do is save one dangerous maniac from another.

Still, you certainly can't accuse Joffe of being timid. He knows how to make a film with style and vision, even if it is too silly to have much of an impact. If you're looking for depth or nuance, though, you won't find it on this end-of-the-pier ghost train.

As films about a married couple coming to terms with the death of their young child go, Rabbit Hole is less painful than you'd expect. It has the good grace to begin several months after Becca and Howie Corbett (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) have lost their son in a car accident, so at least we don't have to witness their initial raw anguish. They've reached the stage where they're trying to rebuild their marriage and get on with their lives in moneyed suburbia, and for that we should be grateful. On the other hand, a little bit of rawness might have been appropriate in the circumstances.

Instead, Rabbit Hole is so neat and decorous that it feels like an academic lecture entitled "Common Responses to Bereavement". Every line of dialogue is so polished that it sounds like a quotation, and everyone around the couple exists solely to counterpoint their predicament.

Becca's mother (Dianne Wiest) lost her son, too; Becca's sister is due to have a baby of her own; even the teenage boy who ran over the couple's child has to stick to the film's theme, so he draws a monumentally unlikely comic book about the different paths that life can take. There are a few moments of sharp-edged comedy when the characters are allowed to be people, rather than walking symbols, such as when Becca smirks at the consolations of a Christian couple, and Howie scares off potential house-buyers by telling them about his son. But mostly the Corbetts are as dully generic as their perfectly co-ordinated beige furniture.

The screenplay is adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire from his own Pulitzer-prize-winning play, so it's possible that its mannered precision is more suited to the theatre than the cinema. But no drama that deals with the death of a child should be as reserved as this. And while Kidman has been Oscar-nominated for her performance, I was too distracted by her bizarre new inside-out lips to register her acting. Like everything else in Rabbit Hole, they're all too obviously artificial.

Next Week:

Nicholas Barber sees Keira and Carey in Never Let Me Go

Also Showing

Nénette (70 mins, PG)

This hypnotic documentary from the director of Etre et avoir focuses on an orangutan who (and "who" seems more apposite than "which") has been living in a Paris zoo for 37 years. As she and her three companions lounge in their enclosure, we hear the philosophising of the visitors and zookeepers, but see no human faces except those reflected in the glass that separates them from Nénette.

A Little Bit of Heaven (107 mins, 12A)

The heart doesn't exactly skip a beat at the prospect of a romantic comedy about a wisecracking cancer patient (Kate Hudson) who falls in love with her doctor, (Gael Garcia Bernal), but the film turns out to be braver, earthier and slightly less sentimental than you might fear.

Sanctum (105 mins, 15)

Tedious cave-diving adventure with second-rate 3D, a third-rate cast, lumpish dialogue, lighting that makes no sense in the subterranean setting, and a bunch of objectionable characters who thoroughly deserve to perish several hundred feet underground.

New York, I Love You (103 mins, 15)

An anthology of 10-minute films by the producer of Paris, je t'aime, this time set in the Big Apple. Most of them feature melancholy brief encounters. What's odd is that few of the participating directors seem to love New York at all.

Nothing to Declare (108 mins, PG)

Amiable Ealing comedy-style farce in which a Francophobic Belgian customs officer has to team up with his French opposite number (writer-director Dany Boon) when their offices are amalgamated in 1993. Unless you're a student of European culture clashes, the humour is lost in translation.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

art
Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

film
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.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album