Trainspotting for toffs

True Blue Ferdinand Fairfax (15) The Day the Sun Turned Cold Yim Ho (12)
This may sound like a rash claim, but the British feature True Blue could well be the new Trainspotting. All right, so the similarities aren't immediately evident. True Blue is set in Oxford, not Edinburgh. In place of Iggy Pop's punk, we have a sub-Vangelis score. And instead of Class A drugs, there is rowing. But addiction is addiction. And as True Blue illustrates, a strapping young man's desire to work out, take showers, bond with his mates and snub his family, in the name of getting up the Thames really quickly, can be all-consuming. The message is clear. Rowing screws you up.

It's billed as "the gripping story of the Oxford University Boat Race mutiny of 1987" - but then you should never judge a film by its press notes. After losing the race in 1986, Oxford were in a tizzy. So one of their oarsmen recruited some American chums, who were determined to reverse Oxford's fortunes. But those dirty Yanks challenged the coach - tough but lovable Dan Topolski (Johan Leysen) - and the team president - fine, upstanding Donald McDonald (Dominic West). The stage was set for war, or at the very least a bit of a set-to.

True Blue has many failings, notably the long, repetitive scenes of breaking up and making up among team-mates. But it's all so numbingly uncinematic that it seems unfair to judge it as a film at all. On its own terms, as a slice of stiff-upper-lipped patriotism, it's as embarrassing and obsolete as you'd expect.

The bewitching thriller The Day the Sun Turned Cold takes a factual case - a boy reporting the death of his father, by his mother's hand, 10 years after the fact - and weaves a net of conflicting emotions. The director Yim Ho regards the disintegrating mother / son relationship with a certain stateliness, though his camera remains very much alive (there are crisp distinctions in colour between the flashbacks). So even if you're weary of the subject matter - the implosion of the family - you'll still be hooked by the execution.

It had been hoped that The Island of Dr Moreau, whose troubled production has made it a mainstay in the trade papers, would provide some light relief. But the press screening was cancelled at the last minute. As has been reported, this is because the production company feels that it is not a film for the critics. What could this mean? That the movie is so dazzling that it would render critical facilities redundant, thus plunging the world into a state of terrifying lawlessness? Or is it that it could be a touch ropey? Whatever, you may want to think carefully before you see a film whose own production company has decreed that it is fit for you, but not for men

All films go on general release tomorrow Ryan Gilbey

Comments