8:00 PM, 26th April, 2013
The appeal of Dickens lies in not so much the story as in the characters – and “Great Expectations” has the most memorable gallery of characters of any of his novels. Happily, the novel also has Dickens’s best story: thrilling, moving, meticulously plotted. Compressing this plot into two hours while losing none of the characters is quite an achievement; and if the film feels a little rushed in places, that can’t be helped – although given the current fashion for turning much slimmer books into trilogies, you have to wonder why it didn’t happen to this book.
As a rather ill-treated child in a small town in Kent, young Pip (Toby Irvine, growing into Jeremy Irvine) has two encounters that define the rest of his life: one with the desperate convict Magwitch (Fiennes) whom he’s coerced into helping; the other with the bitter, wounded-in-love heiress Miss Havisham (Bonham Carter, going bat-crazy on screen for the twelfth time this century) and her adopted child Estella (Helena Barlow, growing into Holliday Grainger). However twisted Havisham and Estella are, Pip sees them as belonging to a higher class, and feels more and more ashamed of his humble origins; in his better moments, he is also ashamed of the fact that he’s ashamed. Then he receives a strange bequest, one that allows him to realise his dreams of wealth and status – but at a price which neither he, nor I suspect the average person who comes to this story cold, will be able to guess.
10:24 PM, 26th April, 2013
Perennially irritable Roberto (Darín) runs a hardware store where he spends his time counting the nails in boxes and then angrily calling the manufacturer when the tally doesn’t correspond with the number on the packaging. If you suspect Roberto’s grumpiness derives from a history we don’t yet know about, you would be right. Roberto’s hobby is collecting unusual clippings from newspapers that reaffirm his sense of life’s absurdity – we also see dramatisations of some of the absurd human-interest stories from Roberto’s clippings, including, significantly, the one about the cow falling from the sky (which is, if final credits footage is to be believed, true).
His own existence is routine and solitary: He visits his parents’ graves, speaks to few people apart from clients whom he treats disdainfully, and to Mari (Santa Ana), a former flame from the countryside who has come to Buenos Aires with the sole aim of winning him back. When Roberto goes to the aid of Jun (Huang), a Chinese man who is being thrown out of a Buenos Aires taxi, he is drawn into Jun’s search for his uncle via a tattooed address on Jun’s arm – Jun speaks no Spanish. After a series of incidents, a Chinese take-away delivery boy translates for Jun, and Roberto discovers the dramatic event that brought Jun to Argentina.