15 September 2009 | bob the moo
I wanted to like it and, while it did engage me, it didn't come off as a total film and was disappointing
The main page review for Franklyn on IMDb (at the time of writing) is telling. It is telling because the whole reason it praises (and indeed the only way it discusses) this film is in relation to the "popcorn cattle" that presumably won't appreciate this film. This I see a lot – anything different is seized upon by those seeking to elevate themselves above the normal cinema public – the same writer may also go out of his way to hate blockbusters whether he/she liked them or not. I can understand this approach to the film Franklyn because, superficially it does offer the Gothic thrills of a bigger budget film but with the creativity and intelligence that the interweaving, real/fantasy parts of the film bring. Or, could have brought I should say because the problem with the film is that it is not the intelligent, complex and well-written film that it (and those that rushed to love it for being different) wanted to be.
I went through a cycle with this film. At first I was engaged and curious, then that started to become a bit of confusion as my curiosity didn't get fed, this was then followed by a touch of impatience as things didn't seem to be coming together. Finally I ended up with a bit of apathy as the film brought itself together in a way that sort of didn't make sense, sort of seemed rushed and sort of seemed overly obvious and easy. And this is why the film doesn't work – because all the ideas, like the threads, just don't come together in a way that works. OK this might be a problem at the end of the film but this feeds backwards through each thread, keeping them separate, removing clarity and meaning each thread has to stand on its own. The fantasy world of Meanwhile City manages this, despite feeling like a cross between Dark City, V for Vendetta and Rorschach from the Watchmen graphic novel. However Emilia's thread feels, like her character, self-indulgent and petulant without anything to get the viewer into it and keep them there. Milo's thread sort of engages in regards the creation of fantasy worlds but it never really works or engages.
It isn't "bad" though but it is never more than OK because it the central problem of it essentially not working as a single story and also struggling even as individual threads. The cast are a mixed bag. Phillippe makes for a tough anti-hero and has a much better presence than I expected him to have but doesn't have the material to work with, and spends his "best" scenes in a mask. Green puts her all into it and delivers the script well – unfortunately this means the problems with her thread and character are all up there for all to see. Riley is surprisingly weak; I recognise that that is an aspect of his character but his performance didn't do anything for me. Hill is strong and it is just a shame that the film doesn't reward his work with more – he certainly seems to have an understanding of where he fits into the film.
The superficial appeal and intelligence of the film offer a potential that it never lives up but it does offer enough to make it feel like a shame when it fails to deliver. I'm sure the film will have a cult following but for me (and I imagine many casual viewers) it disappoints in its failure to come together with the intelligence and creativity that it should have had.