Tamara Drewe, Stephen Frears, 111 mins, (15)
Cyrus, Jay and Mark Duplass, 91 mins, (15)

A quintessentially British tale of passion and folly – with a touch of darkness too

The movie Tamara Drewe is based on a Guardian comic strip by Posy Simmonds, who in turn found inspiration in Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd, replacing Hardy's overwrought melodrama with her sly contemporary satire. Gemma Arterton easily inhabits the heroine, a temptress with a vulnerable core, who returns to her childhood home in a Dorset village and unleashes all manner of passion and folly.

Directed by Stephen Frears, this feels quintessentially British, with that combination of fondness and mockery of its characters, undercut with just enough darkness to keep it interesting.

Tamara, who left Ewedown as an awkward teenager, returns as a trendy London journalist, complete with nose job, and plans to write an autobiographical novel. It's likely she will be adding a little more material; the local women should start worrying.

The trio of men in Tamara's orbit are Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam), a successful crime writer, local celebrity and serial philanderer, whose long-suffering wife, Beth (Tamsin Greig), runs a writers' retreat; rural good egg Andy Cobb (Luke Evans); and preening pop star Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper), whom Tamara has fallen for and brought back to the village.

Rather cutely, the plot's motor is provided by none of these adults, but by two scheming schoolgirls, one of whom has a crush on Sergeant, declaring in heartbroken ire, "How come she gets Ben? I've loved him since March." Alongside the girls, the best comedy comes courtesy of Beth's guests, all waiting for the muse to descend.

This is problematic, having more the character of a TV special than a movie. There's no muscle in it. And I couldn't stop myself wondering why I was watching it on a big screen.

With the casting of John C Reilly and Jonah Hill, one could assume that Cyrus is the latest comedy by Judd Apatow or Will Ferrell, targeting a young, male audience. It isn't. And this warm and witty original deserves to transcend such narrow demographics.

It is written and directed by the Duplass brothers, leading lights of the "mumblecore" movement of US independent film-makers, distinguished by their realist approach and believable characters. Stepping up to the mainstream, the brothers offer a romantic comedy whose plot may be delightfully left-field, but presents people whose emotions and frank conversations about them are entirely feasible.

Reilly plays John, a fortysomething divorcee whose self-esteem is so low (he likens himself to Shrek) that he's all but given up on romance. But then he meets Molly (Marisa Tomei), who doesn't mind that he pees in the bushes or that his neediness would choke a saint. But John's one shot at happiness is barred by Molly's son, Cyrus (Hill), a 21-year-old, home-schooled oddball who won't give up being the centre of his mother's world without a fight. The battle of wits is dirty and hilarious, the need for companionship, understanding and friendship refreshingly real, rather than romcom rote.

The Runaways is an enjoyable biopic of the trailblazing but short-lived Seventies girl band. Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning flex their muscles away from Twilight as guitarist Joan Jett and singer Cherie Currie – one modelling herself on Suzi Quatro, the other Bowie, each prey to manipulative Svengali Kim Fowley (a scene-stealing Michael Shannon). The Runaways' music is raw and wonderful, the milieu, from Rodney Bingenheimer's famous English Disco in Hollywood to the dreary suburbs and trailer parks the girls are escaping, evocatively recreated.

Nicholas Barber is away

Next week

Nicholas Barber finds out if Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg cut it as comedy detectives in The Other Guys

Tamara Crewe is the subject of this week's Arts Culture Club. Let us know your thoughts on the film in the comments below.

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

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
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.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices