This week's movies: Finding the Way Back and Masters of Love

This week we review Ben Affleck's latest drama, murder-mystery "Disappearance at Clifton Hill" and the unsentimental "Masters of Love"
This week's movies: Finding the Way Back and Masters of Love
Finding The Way Back 

Finding the Way Back ****

Disappearance at Clifton Hill ****

Masters of Love ***

 

Construction worker Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck) isn’t especially interested in Finding the Way Back (15A).

Once a High School basketball star, Jack’s only ambition now is to find his way to the bottom of the next bottle. Separated from his wife Angela (Janina Gavankar), alienated from his sister Beth (Michaela Watkins) and her family, Jack gets a shot at redemption when the principal of his alma mater, Fr Devine (John Aylward), offers him the position of coaching a High School basketball team. 

Can Jack pull himself out of his downward spiral and rise to the challenge of becoming the hero everyone once believed him to be? 

Brad Ingelsby’s screenplay for Finding the Way Back is heavily influenced by Best Shot for its first half, but once we discover exactly what it is Jack is trying to find his way back from, the story becomes a more profound exploration of loss, faith and love. 

It’s stretching the point to suggest that Jack is a modern Job being tested to his very limits by a God that Jack doesn’t believe exists, but the way Jack sets about instilling pride and fighting spirit in a basketball team that can’t seem to break its losing streak certainly has a spiritual dimension, even if his pragmatic approach involves encouraging his players to stop turning the other cheek when things get physical on the court. 

The result is a powerful drama in which director Gavin O’Connor refuses to allow for sentimentality or easy options, with Ben Affleck in compelling form as the hulking, washed-up hero who is acutely aware of how short he has fallen as a man, a father and a husband. (various platforms)

Disappearance at Clifton Hill

 Decades after witnessing the violent abduction of a young boy near Niagara Falls, Abby (Tuppence Middleton) returns home to investigate the

Disappearance at Clifton Hill

(15A). 

Beguiling and unsettling, 'Disappearance at Clifton Hill' defies typic the murder-mystery movie.
Beguiling and unsettling, 'Disappearance at Clifton Hill' defies typic the murder-mystery movie.

The trauma experienced in her childhood has resulted in Abby’s life going off the rails, however, giving her a reputation for lying, self-deception and psychotic episodes. 

When the police refuse to believe her, and her sister Laure (Hannah Gross) dismisses the alleged disappearance as the latest example of Abby crying wolf, Abby turns to Walter (David Cronenberg), a local historian whose ‘Over the Falls’ podcast claims that the wealthy Lake family have been responsible for the mysterious deaths of a number of young boys down through the years … 

Written by James Schultz and Albert Shin, with Shin directing, Disappearance at Clifton Hill is a gripping murder-mystery, and not least because Abby is at best an unreliable witness, and at worst a fantasist whose allegations are the product of a damaged mind. 

Some of the characters, meanwhile, seem to have leaped fully formed from one of David Lynch’s more surreal films: David Cronenberg is deliciously creepy as the erudite conspiracy theorist, while the Magnificent Moulins – a husband-and-wife magic act who feature live tigers in their exotic show – are delightfully ridiculous. 

For all its weird ‘n’ wacky flourishes, however, the film is firmly rooted in Abby’s tortured reality, with Tuppence Middleton a gripping blend of vulnerability and determination as she relentlessly pursues the truth of what happened all those years ago, as much to confirm that she isn’t insane as to secure a belated justice for a murdered child. 

Tautly directed by Albert Shin, Clifton Hill is a beguiling, unsettling experience, and not least because it subtly suggests that, contrary to our expectations of murder-mystery movies and life itself, there is no truth to be discovered.

Masters of Love

Masters of Love follows a group of young Londoners as they negotiate the trials and tribulations of modern relationships.
Masters of Love follows a group of young Londoners as they negotiate the trials and tribulations of modern relationships.

Dumped by his girlfriend, Josh (Owen Roberts) moves in with his friend Niall (Ciaran Dowd), only to find himself falling for Niall’s girlfriend Lily (Bekka Bowling). 

Meanwhile, Josh’s sister Emmy (Sarah Ovens) is getting cold feet as her wedding to Samantha (Eleanor Fanyinka) approaches. 

The London setting and interlinked characters bring to mind Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love, Actually, and while it lacks the sprinkling of pixie dust of those movies, it’s a solid romantic drama that gives all the characters plenty of melodrama to work with. 

Perhaps the most intriguing of all the relationships is that of Josh and Niall, who have yet to transition from the boisterousness of being chaps about town to the more mature business of being grown men with relationships that are more important than their own bromance, and Owen Roberts and Ciaran Dowd work well together as they explore the nuances of masculine friendship.

Deftly helmed by writer-director Matt Roberts, Masters of Love is a touching but unsentimental dissection of modern love.

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