Boesman And Lena

Movie Review by Susannah Macklin

Starring: Angela Bassett, Danny Glover
Director: John Berry

Intense characterisation and drama ensue in this screen adaptation of Ethol Fugards play of the same name. Set in Apartheid-torn South Africa with the lights fiercely focusing for the most part on just two characters and their relationship, it’s a narrative that sounds at odds with the big screen, but its transition is suprisingly slick.

The usually glamorous Angela Bassett and Hollywood player Danny Glover are actually perfectly cast as the downtrodden couple of the title, driven from their homes. Theirs is a physically and emotionally draining journey not only to find a place to settle but also to find each other again, as the trial of their shattered life eats away at their partnership. Boesman (Glover) has lost all dignity and is overflowing with pent up aggression and fear. Basset is still the caring and loving element in the relationship, hence the two clash flitting between adoration and disdain. The story is lifted by the arrival of a stranger at the makeshift camp they have come to call home. They are unaware, but in his short time with them this tribesman will make a big impact.

Much of the film is centred around the couple’s exchanges of communication. Boesman’s angry and pessimistic diatribe provides a contrast to the fast-paced chatty dialogue Lena uses to keep her stale situation moving forward. This also sets the rhythm for the story, which trots along quite nicely inside just 90 minutes.

As we are caught up with these two in the drudgery of their situation, colourful flashbacks highlight the intensity of feeling they once had for each other. These flashbacks serve to both frustrate and elate us as they act as a window into the conventions we expect from a film, rather than the stage style backdrop that we are faced with through most of it. It is also quite hard to like a film that offers such dramatic landscapes while only allowing us to focus our attention on the characters in the foreground. At times this claustrophobic feel that director John Berry has created can be a bit too much, but Bassett and Glovers performances and the honest script, saves this.

This film isn’t enough of a star vehicle or extravaganza to carry crowds into the cinemas, although its advertising might have you believe so. It will really appeal to people who enjoy the aesthetics and conventions of theatre or those who would just like to see a poignant film.

3 out of 6 stars

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