Coraline, Henry Selick, 100 mins, (PG)
Chéri, Stephen Frears, 92 mins, (15)
Little Ashes, Paul Morrison, 112 mins, (15)

The blue hair might be kiddy friendly, but wait for the carnivorous plants

I wonder how long it took the BBFC to settle on a PG rating for Coraline. Directed by Henry Selick, who made The Nightmare Before Christmas, and adapted from Neil Gaiman's novel, it looks like a children's film, with its stop-motion animation, its smiley, cuddly puppets, and its complete lack of violence, death, sex or swearing. But anyone expecting Wallace & Gromit should beware. Coraline is shot through with so much upsetting weirdness that it's about as suitable for children as Pan's Labyrinth.

Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) is a friendless, blue-haired 11-year-old who has just moved into a flat in a Victorian house. Her parents are too busy to talk, and her loopy neighbours are a Russian acrobat (Ian McShane) and a pair of raddled old music-hall divas (French and Saunders) who keep getting her name wrong, so Coraline is left alone to wander the grey, bare house and its grey, barren surroundings.

This is quite creepy enough to be going on with, but matters get more macabre when our heroine, like Alice and the Pevensie siblings, finds a doorway to another world. At first, it seems to be a brighter, cheerier mirror image of reality, but then, in state-of-the-art 3D, come the carnivorous plants, the boy who's had his mouth removed, the witch with the body of a spider, and things more nightmarish than anything in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Essentially, Coraline is the story of a girl who travels from somewhere horrible to somewhere even more horrible.

It's easy to admire the film's psychedelic surrealism and its marvellous design, but it's not a great deal of fun. And it doesn't just have the ambience of a bad dream, it has the woozy logic of a dream as well, in that it plonks in arbitrary plot devices to help the action along, instead of explaining where the villains have come from, or how they're defeated. Unlike the best Aardman and Pixar films, Coraline's screenplay isn't as painstakingly constructed as its animation.

Stephen Frears' new film, Chéri, is adapted from a story by Colette and scripted by Christopher Hampton. It's set in belle époque Paris, where Michelle Pfeiffer is withdrawing from a career as a celebrated courtesan.

She embarks on an affair with Rupert Friend, the louche teenage son of a former colleague, Kathy Bates, but none of them takes the dalliance seriously until Pfeiffer falls in love with Friend, possibly because he's the only person in France with sharper cheekbones than hers. Alas, the 30-year age gap isn't their only obstacle. Bates plans for her son to marry a woman even younger than he is.

The film works best when it's being a comedy of bad manners. Hampton has honed some glittering, dartlike lines of dialogue, and they're tossed around with poised aplomb by the immaculately dressed cast. But as jaunty as Chéri is, it's too bitty and insubstantial to be the tragic romance it tries to become in its second half. It also has far too much in common with two of Pfeiffer's previous films, The Age of Innocence and Dangerous Liaisons (another Hampton-Frears collaboration), and neither comparison does it any favours.

If, once you've seen Chéri, you haven't had your fill of dishy young British actors swanking around in waistcoats, you could try Little Ashes, a romantic soap opera about the student friendship between Dali, Buñuel and Lorca when they were Brideshead types in 1920s Madrid. It's an interesting scenario, but its workaday execution couldn't be further from the avant-garde aspirations of its protagonists.

Also Showing: 10/05/2009

Sounds Like Teen Spirit (93 mins, (12A)

Jamie J Johnson's amusing "popumentary" introduces us to several participants in the Junior Eurovision, above, a contest I'd never heard of, but which is apparently a major event in the 17 countries involved. The 10-15-year-old competitors are sweetly ingenuous, apart from one precocious Ukrainian pop robot. But as the film jumps between them, Johnson never hits on a story that's worth telling, and his arch interjections about the contest marking the end of war in Europe hit all the wrong notes. Where's Terry Wogan when you need him?

Momma's Man (94 mins, 15)

This piquant American indie comedy drama zeroes in on the adult male urge to regress to the comforting cocoon of childhood. A thirtysomething man visits his bohemian parents while he's on business in New York, and then, for unspecified reasons, he keeps prolonging his stay instead of going home to his wife and baby daughter in California. It's a quiet film, with its own measured pace, but it has more painfully astute observations than most comedies with 10 times the budget.

Blue Eyelids (98 mins, 15)

When a shy Mexican shopgirl wins a spa break for two, she can't find anyone to accompany her, so she invites an old schoolmate she bumps into, even though she can't actually remember him from school. The awkward courtship of these two tongue-tied singletons makes for a winning tragicomic romance, with a dab of magic realism, but it's not recommended as a date movie.

Delta (92 mins, 18)

A brother and sister build a wooden house on stilts in the middle of a lake, and, despite the disapproving glares of the brandy-sodden, weatherbeaten locals, they realise that their feelings for each other go beyond regular sibling affection. Slow, laconic Hungarian art-house fare, featuring rape, pig slaughter, and a symbolic tortoise.

O'Horten (91 mins, (12A))

Dour, episodic Norwegian comedy about a train driver who retires after several decades' service. With no friends to occupy him, he floats around Oslo, drifting into vaguely quirky encounters.

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power