Movie Review by Dave Blair
Starring: Julie Walters, John Hannah, Patricia Hodge, Tom Wilkinson, Joanne Morley
Director: Lewis Gilbert
As the story of three very different sisters returning to there childhood home for the funeral of their mother, the film adaptation of the Shelagh Stevenson play, ‘The Memory of Water’ looks interesting in its premise. It’s opening scenes – the sisters as girls playing on the beaches of the Isle of Man – hints at an unfolding bittersweet tale of nostalgia for childhood set against the pain of bereavement.
In the absence of any real plot the viewer is asked to look into the lives of the characters; Julie Walters’ Teresa, the oldest and most boring of the sisters; Catherine, the scatty would-be socialite; and the enigmatic Mary, doctor and mistress of a minor celebrity. In their exchanges the director wants to engage us in the complex issues that the women carry round with them and the secrets that we know will come out.
Whether due to the watery dialogue, or the performances of the cast, the characters fail to engage the viewer. Walters, in her now familiar middle-aged dullard role, is hard to empathise with, while Victoria Hamilton’s Catherine is just annoying. To a degree the film is saved by the performance of Joanne Whalley (SCANDAL, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO LITTLE) as Mary. Her remote mannerisms suggest a dark secret that provides the film with a late twist, and her air of intrigue carries the film through its drearier moments.
BEFORE YOU GO is billed as a comedy, but apart from the occasional humorous observation on the subject of sex, it’s not funny. It could have made an interesting satire on the funeral industry, but it’s not clever enough to be described as satirical. It could have been a touching SECRETS AND LIES-style piece on the turmoil of a middle class family, but it fails to move. Maybe it’s that I didn’t get it – perhaps a woman or older person would appreciate it more – but for all the drama, tension and dark humour that could have made this funeral-comedy very watchable, BEFORE YOU GO never really hits home.