I love London. And I love movies set in London. And movies based on the fantastical? Set in London? Well, what’s not to love? And that’s what Franklyn is, but it is also so much more.
This film was another great recommendation from Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” library. Split between parallel realities of contemporary London and a more gothic metropolis referred to as Meanwhile City, it follows the stories of four different characters. Jonathan Preest (Ryan Phillippe) is a masked vigilante in the dark Meanwhile City, whose only goal is to avenge the death of his sister. Milo (Sam Riley) is a left-at-the-altar young man who is yearning to find the purity of his first love. Sam (Eva Green) is a disturbed art student whose projects generally involve her own suicide attempts. Finally, Peter (Bernard Hill) is a man steeped in faith and religion, desperately searching for a son that has gone missing.
In film scenes, we are taken on a journey, back and forth, from bright London full of sunshine to the shadowy Meanwhile City. And all the while, pieces of the film (which is almost given to us as a jigsaw puzzle) begin to fall into place.
This film could have been as bad as Sucker Punch (as the basic premise felt similar), but first-time director Gerald McMorrow took this material and created a coherent story with characters we come to care about and empathize with.The writing is good, as well, giving continuity to a story that takes place in these two distinctly separate worlds.
Phillippe is convincing as the masked vigilante and is mysterious and cunning, a man with a mission. Green has an elegant pallor of depression about her, a woman deeply despaired by events from her childhood and her relationship with her mother. These two actors alone make this film interesting to watch. But then add in top-notch performances by both Riley and Hill, too, and you’ve got a film I rated with five stars on Netflix.
I found myself enthralled with the world of Meanwhile City. Gothic cathedral-like architecture and dark tones really set the mood for a world obsessed with religion. It made a nice contrast to the London scenes and reminded me, occasionally, of Dark City.
The film does start out as a jigsaw puzzle, with pieces seemingly all over the place, but somehow the pieces end up fitting together perfectly by the end, giving us a fulfilling conclusion to the characters’ stories.
Sometimes the truth lies between the real world and that of our fantasies. That is what Franklyn shows us.