At the heart of Barney’s Version is a powerful performance from Paul Giamatti, as an ageing curmudgeon looking back over his past. He blunders his way through two marriages—to a tortured artist (Rachelle Lefevre) and a Jewish socialite (Minnie Driver)—and has no direction until he meets the beautiful Miriam (Rosmund Pike). Only his relationships with his father (Dustin Hoffman) and best friend (Scott Speedman) are constant, but even these are not straightforward.
The King’s Speech has an awful lot to live up to as it makes its home entertainment debut. Not only did it win a clutch of awards, including four Oscars, but it’s been proclaimed as the saviour of modern British cinema by commentators from every corner of the industry. It’s rare for a film to satisfy that amount of hype, and often those who have waited to catch a must-see movie in the comfort of their own home are left wondering what all the fuss is about. Not so here; this film is a genuine delight.
Hollywood may be the home of the happy ending, but America’s independent landscape has proved to be the habitat of braver, more brutal truths. In the case of Blue Valentine, those truths concern the darker side of love; namely that it doesn’t necessarily last forever, and that it can be as ugly as it is beautiful. But while this idea may be a rarity in modern cinema, it certainly makes for an intriguing and involving film.