x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Cannes: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

Woody Allen loses his sense of direction in Britain.

What is it about the London air that brings out the worst in Woody Allen? Following on from his disastrous threesome of Match Point, Scoop and Cassandra's Dream comes this relationship comedy. Part of the problem with the director's UK work is that Allen veers away from his natural inclinations, and his concessions to British life often seem as though they're taken from some rose-tinted memory of Ealing comedies and kitchen sink dramas. But where Allen still has some mastery is in his ability to create amusing relationship conundrums. In the aftermath of a break-up between Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones), Alfie finds solace in the arms of free-spirited Charmaine (Lucy Punch) while Helena, on the advice of her daughter, Sally (Naomi Watts), starts to see a fortune teller. Sally's marriage to a failed author called Roy (Josh Brolin) is also in tatters and she takes up with her boss Greg (Antonio Banderas picking up the reins where Javier Bardem left off in Vicky Cristina Barcelona), while Roy is infatuated with his musician neighbour (Frieda Pinto). Using these ideas, Allen surreptitiously weaves into the action the art world and plagiarism with some decent twists. The acting is top notch, in particular the female leads. But this movie feels directionless throughout and it is no surprise that Allen takes a leaf out of Chekhov's book and leaves several strands unresolved.