Franklyn (UK - BD RB)
Scott McKenzie visits Meanwhile City to try and work out what the hell is going on
Franklyn is a joint British/French production that follows a number of lost souls as they deal with the complications in their lives. This may sounds like a typical navel-gazing drama based in middle-class living rooms, but while some of the action is set in bistros with the main characters drinking wine and discussing their lives, one strand of the story is based in the fantasy land of Meanwhile City, where the masked Jonathan Preest heads out into the night to seek vengeance for a murder years earlier.
With a budget of $12 million, Franklyn didn’t exactly fare well upon its release in UK cinemas. According to IMDb, it opened one fifty-four screens and after three weeks, took just under $150,000. For the record I enjoyed the movie, but it’s no surprise to me that pretty much no one went to see it. The main problem is that from the beginning and for a substantial length of its running time, Franklyn is fairly impenetrable. What kept me watching (other than a reviewer’s obligation) was the hunch that I knew the strands of the story would all come together. I mean, with Ryan Phillippe and Eva Green on board, it’s not just going to be ninety-odd minutes of arty nonsense that doesn’t go anywhere, is it? Erm... is it?
Thankfully everything does come together, and when it does it’s one of those moments that feels like you’ve been led to it in small steps, rather than leaving the audience feeling like they’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes Shyamalan-style. There are a number of themes running through the movie that give it an air of intelligence—government control, psychology, dealing with loss and biased opinions of religion—but aside from a couple of fight scenes, there’s not exactly a lot that would have drawn the teenage boys (aka paydirt) into the multiplexes in their droves. This is a real shame, because in addition to exercising the grey matter, Franklyn is also a feast for the eyeballs.
The director Gerald McMorrow must have stretched every penny out of his budget because the scenes set in Meanwhile City look stunning. An incredible amount of work has gone into the design of the sets and costumes, even though their appearances on screen are fleeting at best. I would have preferred the screenplay to have spent more time in Meanwhile City, but I suppose too much might have been given away by doing so. Herein lies the problem—the bit of the story that looks the best is the one that the filmmakers can’t show too much of. If there was some way of contriving a story to get a whole movie set in Meanwhile City, I’d love to see it.
Dialogue is incredibly important here and the screenplay contains some real zingers that must have been gifts to the actors when they read it. It might not make sense in the context of this review, but when Eva Green delivers the line “See you next Tuesday” to her character’s mother, you’re left in no confusion as to the atmosphere in the room. Some of the actors are used in multiple roles and this is probably the biggest hint as to the ‘big secret’, but this is very much the type of twist that you can start to piece together yourself as the movie goes on, rather than hitting you with a sledgehammer of exposition.
Franklyn is a visually striking movie and the quality of the transfer on this Blu-ray disc doesn’t disappoint. The two worlds have different looks—Meanwhile City is drenched in nostalgic sepia tones, while the real world looks a lot colder, with lots of blue and grey. The detail in the picture is particularly impressive when the action is in Meanwhile City, where visual effects make up the bulk of the wide landscape shots. The colours are relatively dull throughout the film, until the second character played by Eva Green shows up...
The only surround option we get is a Dolby TrueHD track and just as with the picture quality, the audio quality is surprisingly good. It’s rare to get a British/French film with this much ambition in its video and audio production and if you were to take any frame or any audio clip, you could easily think it belonged to a Hollywood production that had a budget ten times that of Franklyn. Joby Talbot’s grand score sounds very good and succeeds in setting the tone of the movie from the beginning, but the real enjoyment comes from picking out the details. A lot of work has gone into producing the surround effects and this is noticeable more than ever when the action is set in the crowded streets of Meanwhile City.
The disc opens with skippable trailers for Sex Drive, Knowing and Bronson. ‘A Moment In The Meanwhile’ is the main special feature—a thirty-minute making-of featurette that combines the usual interviews with the cast, crew and clips from the movie. There are some interesting points in there about how the two different worlds were filmed but I would definitely recommend avoiding this until you’ve watched the whole movie—some interviewees are sometimes in danger of giving away the big secret. Finally we get the trailer for Franklyn and three deleted scenes that would only have slowed down the pace of the movie.
Franklyn is definitely worthy of your time, but be warned—if you sit down to watch this slow-burner, make sure you give it your full attention. Stick with it and you’ll enjoy a viewing experience more fulfilling than watching a dozen summer blockbusters. The transfer on this Blu-ray disc is very good and while the extras are a little lacking, I recommend everyone willing to take a risk on an intelligent thriller picks this up—if only to encourage the studios to let Gerald McMorrow make another one.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 22nd June 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, PCM 2.0 Stereo English
Extras: A Moment In The Meanwhile, Deleted Scenes, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Gerald McMorrow
Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Eva Green, Sam Riley, Bernard HIll
Genre: Drama and Sci-Fi
Length: 98 minutes
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