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
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
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.

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness