Dir/scr. Gerald McMorrow. UK 2007. 95 mins
It's unusual in the current film-making climate to see an independent director making such an ambitious debut as Gerald McMorrow's Franklyn. He aims high, visually and conceptually, but a more experienced director would have trouble finding the right tone to pull this intricate plot off.
Set partially in a futuristic place called Meanwhile City, where the feeling is baroque Bladerunner, and also in present-day London, Franklyn's biggest stumbling block is that it waits too long to connect the plotlines and pushes the viewer perhaps too hard for forbearance on the way there. For a sci-fi crowd, the V For Vendetta or Dark City audience, this won't pose too big a problem, but Franklyn's commercial prospects are cult-level, at least theatrically. Having Ryan Philippe in the lead role would perhaps augur better if he wasn't shrouded in a hood for most of the proceedings, a very strange choice indeed.
Notices should be at least encouraging: McMorrow has pulled off a very handsome look on a limited budget (reportedly £6m) and the film starts off promisingly in Meanwhile City, where Franklyn's anti-hero, Jonathan Preest (who we will later find out is Philippe) declares that he is about to kill a man, 'the individual', who was responsible for the murder of a girl years ago.
In present-day London (and Cambridge) meanwhile, a pastor (Hill), is looking for his son. A young man Milo (Riley) has been jilted at the altar and bares his heart to best man Dan (Coyle). A conceptual artist called Emilia (Green, channelling Helena Bonham Carter) fights with her mother (York), is late on deadline, and makes repeated suicide attempts.
The strands are piling up to a dauntingly high level even before Milo's childhood crush turns out to be a teacher called Sally (also Green) who works as a teacher in Ealing.
Back in Meanwhile City, religion is the order of the day- although this concept is interesting, it doesn't really pan out to much - and Preest has an oddly-choreographed fight with security guards before ending up in front of a religious board headed by Art Malik.
It's all rather a lot to take on board and McMorrow doesn't really try to smooth the edges for general audiences.
While there is a lot to praise technically, those lured to this production by the marquee names and premise are going to demand more than Franklyn delivers. It will, however, be remembered and marks McMorrow as a name to watch.
Recorded Picture Company
UK Film Council
+ 44 (0)207 290 0750