Friday, October 16, 2009

London Film Fest Day 3 - LIFE DURING WARTIME

Todd Solondz is back in the place he loves best: contemporary Jewish-American middle-class suburbia where normal looking people deal with drug addiction, perversion, pedophilia, suicide, neuroses, and anything else you might deem "inappropriate" to talk about in front of the kids. Solondz picks up characters from his previous, brilliantly disturbing films WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE and HAPPINESS and has them deal with events from those flicks. In the case of the family recovering from the father's child rape conviction, the action takes place in sunny Florida rather than the more typical Jersey ("a state of irony") bu the grim humour remains the same. In short, if you like Solondz you'll love this film.

Tech credits are, as ever, polished, with sunny-suburban production design contrasting with the painful subject matter. Casting is superlative. Special praise is due for Allison Janney as the wife of the convicted paedophile, and Shirley Henderson as her sister, who works with convicts and whose lovers have a habit of topping themselves. Ciaran Hinds skulks around as the pederast and achieves something very difficult: he evokes our sympathy. Charlotte Rampling is typically strong in a cameo as frustrated older woman. The glue that binds all these characters together is the idea of forgiveness.

LIFE DURING WARTIME played Telluride, Venice (where it won Best Screenplay), Toronto, New York and London 2009.


  1. Reading more and more reviews. I can't wait to see this movie but nobody knows when it will be released. As for Ciaran Hinds: making villains looks almost likable is one of his great skills.
    Greeting from France

  2. The problem with getting distribution is, I suspect, the edgy subject matter, combined with the fact that it does tread similar ground to his previous work. For instance, I wrote this review on email and mailed-to-blogger, but my email carrier refused to send the mail because it contained so many references to pederasty. That's the basic issue. We live in a culture that prefers banal rom-coms to the dark, subversive humour of Solondz.