Opens: March 14
Duration: 91 minutes
Cast Bill Nighy in a major role and audiences will usually flock. I can immediately hear many readers chuckling with amusement at the very thought of Nighy. With his lips typically so flagrantly still, his mouth so determinedly closed, it’s a miracle he manages to squeeze out a single word.
Sometimes Always Never
But as an actor he has qualities other than an unconventional speaking style, for there is undeniably something mysterious about the way this eccentric actor invariably makes his characters, often losers and eccentrics, turn all bumbling and hapless – and yet somehow they are weirdly adorable.
This ability, deployed with masterful understatement, tends to make him the best thing about whatever film or TV series he appears in. That’s the case in this bleak comedy-drama, the directorial debut for Carl Hunter and scripted by veteran Frank Cottrell Boyce. Here he plays Alan, a retired Liverpudlian tailor (complete with accent – a Nighy first?), whose son years ago disappeared without a trace.
Apart from the theme of loss, this self-consciously stylised comedy is concerned with the gap between the younger digital generation (represented by Alan’s computer game obsessed grandson) and the tactile world of their predecessors, represented by the board game Scrabble. Alan and his son were playing the game the night the latter walked out, never to return.
The story, partly built around a road trip, is unpredictable, but new director Hunter is a bit too keen to dial up the quirk factor. While seemingly aiming for a deadpan anti-realism comparable to the work of Swedish genius Roy Andersson (A Pigeon Sat on a Branch…), he rarely hits its target dead on.