Brian Henry Martin at the movies

Life Is Too Short

Published Friday, 21 September 2012
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Have you any unfulfilled ambitions? Things to do before you run out of time? Well, you may have our own wish list, but for me, firstly and most importantly, don't watch bad films - life is too short.

So this week, I'm sorry to say, that despite Dakota Fanning's powerful dying performance, Now Is Good - is not a good movie. Films on the big screen need to be cinematic; vivid visual storytelling which pack an emotional punch. Unfortunately, Now Is Good looks like a 90's daytime soap and pulls at the heart strings like Michael Bolton's mullet.

"Moments" explains Tessa, played by Dakota Fannning. "They are right here, right now. This is a moment." Set in Brighton, Tessa is 17 and passionate about life. Diagnosed with a terminal illness, she decides to live her short life to the full. Not so much a bucket list but a teenage bedroom brief, scrawled above her headboard including losing her virginity and taking drugs. Armed with the help of her friend Zoey (Kaya Scodelario) she sets the list in motion.

While her family deals with fear and grief, each in their own way, none more than her distraught father, acutely played by Paddy Considine. Tessa explores a whole new world.

She falls in love with Adam, the boy next door, played by Jeremy Irvine, who looks like he's just walked out out of a Kays catalogue. This wooden hunk has a warm heart and their doomed love which should be the most romantic of all, is just dull. And in case, you've forgotten that Irvine starred in War Horse, there's a ridiculous scene with Tess on the back of his motorbike, as he speeds past a field of galloping horses in the sunset.

Ol Parker appears out of his depth in the director's chair, and hence his static camera only skims the surface. A talented screenwriter, Parker's last penned film was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a wonderful witty adventure, which was directed by Oscar winner John Madden.

As you would expect there are some funny lines in this script "Do you want to slap my rump?" Tessa asks her smarmy Doctor. "Then don't talk to me like a horse!" But not enough to keep the drama from falling flat. The film begins as it inevitably ends. Despite his best efforts, Parker is unable to scale the heights of passion or the depths of despair. What should be edgy becomes too wholesome.

And nothing can kill a movie quicker than a dreadful soundtrack. And sadly American composer Dustin O'Halloran smothers what drama there is with a score of annoying single piano notes. The audience, unlike horses, do not want to be lead by the nose, let alone thumped over the head.

Saving this film from total disaster is Dakota Fanning, the girl from the Southern states who perfects a superb South coast accent. Her 'Tess of the Surbervilles' is a triumph, worthy of a much better film. Fanning is a superstar in the making; she could be the next Jodie Foster, the next Meryl Streep, she is that good.

What should be a weepy left me in tears for all the wrong reasons. Movies with a message can be great, especially those which remind you that life is precious and to stop wasting your time. Who can forget Robin Williams' English Professor in Dead Poets Society instructing his students "Carpe Diem" - to seize the day.

So do yourself a favour, give this day out at the cinema a miss.

Now Is Good (12a) is now on general release.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.


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