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March 7, 2008
San Jose Cinequest Film Festival 18
112 Minutes
Jan Dunn

Bob Hoskins rises above the material in this film about man whose wife has just died. He is known around his English seaside town as "grumpy Jack" even before becoming a widower. He stops showering and cleaning his house, his son can't forgive him for his years of drinking and neglect, he's even lost faith and pleasure in his former joy, raising homing pigeons. He wants to be left alone until a precocious girl moves in next door and she isn't privy to social mores. She comes and goes from his garden as she pleases. His grumpiness has no effect on her. Jack also at first yells at, threatens, and then mentors a teenage boy who is holding court with the wrong kind of friends. The new residents of his neighborhood are uneasy about a widower with so many children as friends. Tongues wag.

Jack's heart is being thawed by a French widow who lives next door. Can this combination of brave little girl, improving teenager, and home-cooking Frenchwoman make Jack enjoy life again? What do you think?

The last ten minutes tie everything up in a nice bow. Way too easily. And this is one of those films with a surprising shocking twist that's neither shocking, nor in any way surprising.

Again, Mr. Hoskins makes you believe that the story is deeper than it actually is. But I didn't mind spending time with any of these characters, except the mother of the teenager who must have read a parenting how-to book, and then set about doing the complete opposite. Littering? Check. Swearing? Check. Not believing in children? Check. Illiteracy? Check. Perhaps some nuance might have helped here.



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