Photobucket“A tragedy of brothers.”

These days you never know what you will get from a Woody Allen film. 2005’s dramatic, Match Point and his follow up of the fantastically funny Scoop could not have been more diverse. Except for the presence of Scarlett Johansen of course. Who by the way will be in the 2008 release of the next Allen comedy, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. But tucked away between these two comedies is Cassandra’s Dream. A dramatic film that is dark and searching. A film that makes you, at least it did me, search your heart and mind to decipher what sort of person you would be if in the character’s same situation. Many times we do not like the outcome of these films mainly because it shines a light on where our fate would lie if left to our own devices. It is true that we all fall short of anything divine and even our best deeds have dark intentions. I mean, if we are really honest about it.

The film is about two close nit brothers trying to make their way in the world. Ian (Ewan McGregor) is the smart one according to his mum. He has grand dreams of making it in the finance world but is stuck helping out his father in the family restaurant. But he is upbeat and optimistic about where his path lies. Terry (Colin Farrell) is the blue collar sibling. He works hard to try and make it. His tendency to bet too much on the horses and at the poker table keep him bouncing from debtor to debtor but so far he has managed to stay in the black. Until now. This added to Ian’s need for cash to bankroll a business venture in the States lead them both to Uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson); their mom’s brother who has made millions in his life legitimately and has never hesitated to help out his family when called upon. After all, family is family. But when Uncle Howard asks a favor of his two nephews the line becomes very hazy and they find themselves torn between family loyalty and personal morality.

I was intrigued by the direction this film went to show how two people in the same situation can respond so differently. Ian seems to be able to rationalize the event and put aside any sort of guilt or remorse. Maybe it is his upbeat nature that allows him to wash over what he has done. The past is the past and his only concern is his rosier future. Terry’s response is a downward spiral deeper into drinking and depression. He has sinned and the weight of this sin bears down on him more and more each day. The financial freedom and removal of his debts mean nothing in light of what he has done. He speaks of God and how he will be judged for his actions. He is tormented day and night by guilt and can not understand his brother’s flippant attitude. This difference in opinion causes a riff between two men who were closer than their blood ties not weeks earlier. It made me wonder how two souls can be that different. At what juncture does the split begin? Is it chemical or spiritual? Regardless it is intriguing.

Cassandra’s Dream is rated R for adult themes and language. It is a heavy film which drags at times and never seems to get past the dark feel of its story. Even the upbeat moments are gray. This makes the film seem longer than its 108 minutes. The acting is perfect and the Farrell/McGregor pairing was a good call. They work well together and it is not a big stretch to see them as family. Ewan’s soft spoken ease and Colin’s troubled persona balance the story and each other. There is caring here and that adds to the tragedy of the film. Woody Allen has created a present day Greek tragedy that fans of art films will applaud and others will sleep through. I give it 4 out of 5. Yes for the acting but mainly for the moral issues it stirred up within me. It caused me to think about the lengths I would go to have all my current worries put aside. It is a deep, dark part of the brain and going there is never easy. So kudos to Allen for that. Now, where is that comedy we were promised!

Matt Mungle (matt@mungleshow.com)(1/16/08)

“Matt is a member of the North Texas Film Critics Association (NTFCA) and co-hosts a weekly radio feature, The Mungles on Movies, with his wife Cindy. For additional reviews, interview clips and great DVD giveaways, visit the website www.mungleshow.com”

Review copyright 2008 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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