World's Greatest Dad, Bobcat Goldthwait, 100 mins (15)
The Town, Ben Affleck, 125 mins (15)
Eat Pray Love, Ryan Murphy, 140 mins (PG)

Robin Williams gives a subtle performance in a great film – yes, you read that correctly

When you hear that Robin Williams is starring in a comedy called World's Greatest Dad, the sane response is to run for the hills: after all, Williams's last parentally themed offering was Old Dogs, which should have been taken to a vet and put to sleep.

World's Greatest Dad, though, is a different matter. Starting as a downbeat indie mood piece, it builds, slowly and stealthily, into the bravest, sharpest, and, yes, greatest comedy of the year.

Williams stars as a divorced high-school teacher whose achievements amount to five unpublished novels and a teenage son, played by Daryl Sabara, who is as rude and sullen as it's possible for a human being to be, ie, he's about average for a boy of his age. I won't reveal any more of the story – this is one film in which the surprises should remain surprises – but World's Greatest Dad goes on to trample taboos with a boldness that would have Judd Apatow and the Farrelly brothers quaking. Bobcat Goldthwait has written and directed an outrageous, blackly comic satire, and yet it's also a desperately moving personal story: as magnificently repulsive as Sabara is, you can always believe that his father loves him. This is mainly due to Goldthwait's nuanced screenplay, but it's also because of Williams's subtle performance – and how often can you say that?

If Williams's reputation has dropped since he was in Good Will Hunting, it hasn't plunged as far as that of Ben Affleck, whose run of atrocious films in the early Noughties turned him from a leading man to a standing joke. Still, Affleck got the last laugh when he directed and co-wrote an excellent detective thriller, Gone Baby Gone, and his rehabilitation continues apace with his second film as director, The Town, another Boston-set crime drama.

Affleck also stars in this one, playing a career crook who has never left Charlestown, his blue-collar boyhood neighbourhood. After a successful bank raid, he and his team are concerned that the bank's assistant manager, Rebecca Hall, might be talking to the FBI, so he agrees to stalk her, but ends up asking her out for a drink. She, of course, has no inkling that her new suitor had pointed an assault rifle at her just days before, and the pair slip into a relationship that could destroy them both. Just as likely destroyers, though, are Affleck's short-fused friend, The Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner, and an FBI Agent on the robbers' trail, Mad Men's John Hamm.

All The Town's ingredients are traditional ones – the noble thief, the golden-hearted girlfriend who inspires him to go straight, the unstable associate pressuring him to do One Last Job – but it's the kind of intelligent, well-acted, tautly scripted thriller that is all too rare. Like Gone Baby Gone, it has the pungent tang of an authentic setting: a square mile where robbery is a way of life. There's an earthy reality to the action, too. You can almost feel the jolts when cars crash, and you'll duck when shots are fired.

Eat Pray Love, based on Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling memoir, stars Julia Roberts as Elizabeth, a celebrated author with an enviable house and a devoted, handsome husband. Naturally, this state of affairs leaves her feeling vaguely dissatisfied, so she gets a divorce and takes a year off to go abroad. It's a curious decision for a travel writer who's been all over the world already, but it seems that Elizabeth has done most of her globe-trotting with her eyes closed. At her first port of call, Rome – the "Eat" part of the triptych – this native New Yorker views pizza and pasta as exotic delicacies, and is amazed to learn that Italians use hand gestures when they talk. Next she goes to India – the "Pray" section – where she discovers even less about the local culture. The whole time she's there, she's ensconced in an ashram, with an "air-conditioned meditation cave", getting spiritual guidance from a Texan called Richard. And then it's off to Bali, where Javier Bardem is waiting at a beach bar to provide the "Love". The message, it seems, is that wherever you go in the world, your best friends will be white people who speak fluent English.

Eat Pray Love looks nice, but nothing happens to Elizabeth that isn't in the title. Take away the vapid self-help psychobabble, and the film is basically a maddeningly slow slide show of someone else's holiday snaps.

Next Week:

Nicholas Barber sees Made In Dagenham, another true-life feminist Brit-com from the director of Calendar Girls

Also Showing: 26/09/2010

Frozen (93 mins, 15)

Remember Open Water – the low-budget, high-concept survival-horror film which stranded a couple of scuba divers in the middle of the ocean? Frozen is a similar, but superior game of what-would-you-do?, in which three students (above) are stuck in a chairlift half-way up a mountain, a hundred feet off the ground, with no chance of rescue for a week.

Thanks to the engaging characters, the location shooting, and a writer-director who's thought through the situation's every possibility, it's all horribly believable. And what's that howling in the distance?

Dragon Hunters (80 mins, PG)

After Avatar and How To Train Your Dragon, this French cartoon's floating islands and flying beasties have a Johnny-come-lately flavour, and its story and characters don't match those of its American predecessors. But Dragon Hunters' exquisite visuals and apocalyptic tone make it worth seeking out. At times it's downright surreal, and potentially too dark and strange for very young viewers. If you want to know what Terry Gilliam's dreams must look like, now's your chance to see.

Peepli Live (104 mins, 15)

An indebted Indian farmer decides to commit suicide because he thinks that a government compensation scheme will save his family's land. But when a reporter finds out, the media circus comes to town. Scattershot satire that hits some of its targets.

Confucius (110 mins, 15)

Chow Yun-Fat plays the hallowed Chinese philosopher – and, apparently, crackshot archer – in this period epic. Panoramic views, spectacular pageantry, thundering battles, the lot.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
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.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders