Film Come Away

Angelina Jolie as Rose Littleton dances with David Oyelowo as Jack Littleton in Come Away

Angelina Jolie stars as Rose Littleton and David Oyelowo as Jack Littleton in COME AWAY (Signature Entertainment) - Credit: Credit: Hilary B. Gayle/SMPSP

Directed by Brenda Chapman. Starring Angelina Jolie, David Oyelowo, Anna Chancellor, Jordan A. Nash, Keira Chansa and Michael Caine. In cinemas Dec 18. Running time: 94 mins.  *

I like a nice mystery myself and this new children's fantasy certainly provides one of them. At the beginning, I was wondering what the hell I was watching and an hour and a half later I was wondering what the hell I had just seen, though with a tad more animation and frustration.

Keira Chansa with hair in ringlets at outdoor tea party as Alice Littleton

Keira Chansa stars as Alice Littleton in COME AWAY, a Relativity Media release. - Credit: Credit: Alex Bailey / © Maginot Line, LLC 2020

Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as adult Alice Littleton reading to her children in Come Away

Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as adult Alice Littleton in COME AWAY, a Relativity Media release. - Credit: Credit: Alex Bailey / © Maginot Line, LLC 2020

Nothing really fits in this film. It's got a Hollywood cast but the production values of a cheap BBC children's drama from the 90s. That this is the work of one of the directors of Pixar's Brave is just another of its mysteries. After a family tragedy, Rose (Jolie) and Jack's (Oyelowo) two children Peter (Nash) and Alice (Chansa) escape into fantasy, visualising elements of Pan and Wonderland to replace their harsh reality.

Presumably, the film is aimed at children, but this Victorian-era story is bleak and mirthless and the fantasy elements do nothing to lift the gloom. I think the theme is the importance of play and imagination to children but none of the play scenes is much fun. And it doesn't make clear how we are supposed to interpret the Pan/ Wonderland elements. Are the children creating it themselves, or are they inspired by works they have read? I don't even know why it's called Come Away. Surely something like Come Off It or Get Away would be more appropriate.

That this is a tale of your typical Victorian mixed-race couple further complicates the response. As a dull literalist, when I see colour-blind casting in historical dramas such as Mary Queen Of Scots I take it as evidence that this country has been harmoniously multi-cultural since the Middle Ages. Come Away though is clearly a fantasy; a suspension of disbelief is requested and freely given. But, once suspended, you notice that apart from the children all the people of colour in this narrative are criminals, or servants, or have moral failings. Jolie's sister Chancellor clearly believes that she has married beneath her: Jack is a skilled craftsman but he likes the occasional drink and gamble and his family are semi-legitimate pawnbrokers. So this progressive, colourblind drama ends up being just a little bit racist, which is quite something. for a review of Arrow Video's home release of Tremors.

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