2 May 2009 | Chris Knipp
Everyhing is good except the movie
Watched this because Eddie Redmayne seemed interesting in 'Savage Grace' but the film was perfectly dreadful. This again, actually his first feature film, isn't in a genre I'm at all crazy about, but, far-fetched and derivative from various sources though it is,it's still quite good for what it is. The directing has some merit, the cast is fine, the tech package (to use the Variety jargon) is first rate, and it's clever of them to adopt a cold, pale look instead of the usual chiaroscuro for spooky horror stories and also to avoid an excess of gore. This is a supernatural murder conspiracy mystery for people who don't like such stuff.
I am not of the opinion that Tom Sturridge is vastly inferior to Redmayne as some have said. The whole film would be a washout if that were true, since it's the unwilling symbiosis of the two youths that's the heart of the piece.
An excellent "making of" with the US DVD package shows Tom and Eddie are friends in real life and points out that the chemistry was evident from the first moments of a screen test. Good use is made of the spooky waxen perfection of Sturfridge's face. Tony Collette is a very good actress but often appears in overwrought roles; here, she is admirably toned down and also helps keep the movie from getting too genre or too pumped-up. Roxburgh and all the others do very creditable work and one can appreciate newcomer writer-director Read's alertness and enthusiasm. The "making of" introduces us to the main crew members and cast in interviews that are brief but feel natural. It also does an interesting job of explaining how remarkably the filmmakers fulfilled the requirements of shooting half in Australia and half in England in two opposite seasons and totally unlike landscapes and making them blend seamlessly together.
The final twist may seem just one more absurdity, but in the film's own terms it felt quite neat and right. The thing about Redmayne is, he has a chilly self-possession that is fascinating to watch in action. (In person he seems quite normal and pleasant.) It's quite worthwhile also to see somebody starring in a film about a public school who actually went to the preppiest English prep school of all, Eton. (Sturridge went to Winchester, which isn't far off.) I hope Redmayne's special talents and looks don't always lead him into films that are as campy or over-the-top as this and 'Savage Grace.' He seems to be "hot" now so he's going to have a chance to try different stuff. I'm curious to see how he does in two US productions,'The Yellow Handkerchief' and "Powder Blue.' Only time will tell if he gets good opportunities and makes good choices, but there's no doubt that he has something.