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Red Joan - Film Review

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by JC (subscribe)
I have a had a life-long love of the arts; enjoying theatre, ballet, art and movies. We are all time poor and have limits to our entertainment budget so I hope an honest review will help make your choices easier.
Published May 29th 2019
Traitor or heroine? You decide
Based Jennie Rooney's best-selling novel of the same name, Red Joan tells the true story of an elderly lady living a quiet life in suburban England when, shockingly, she is arrested by MI5 and charged with treason.

We first meet Joan (Judi Dench) in her early eighties, in the year 2000, pottering around in her very nice suburban home. A more innocent and innocuous character could not be imagined. But as she is interrogated by MI5, Joan drifts into memories of a past life that may not be so benign.

Younger Joan (Sophie Cookson) is a beautiful young Cambridge student in 1938. She graduates with a First Class degree in Physics; an achievement blatantly ignored by her male colleagues. Her friends include Leo (Tom Hughes), a young Russian student who first escaped Russia and then Nazi Germany to live in England, and his cousin Sonya (Tereza Srbova). Both are beautiful, charming and charismatic. Joan's attraction to Leo is instantaneous but with time she finds it hard to distinguish between his romantic involvement with her and the uneasy feeling that he is grooming her for Communist Party activity.

Sophie Cookson and Tom Hughes

With the onset of World War II, Leo and Sonya must leave England. Heart-broken, Joan takes a job with a top-secret project underway at the famous Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. Here, along with her boss Max (Stephen Campbell Moore), they work to create an atomic bomb. When the power of the bomb is recognised, Joan is horrified by her own part in the race and finds herself faced with a moral dilemma. What will Joan do? Is this frail elderly lady more than she appears?

This is the kind of story that leaves you a little torn; the horror of Joan's dilemma and the consequences of her decision are huge. Yet, the question she poses for herself creates a new perspective on the nuclear arms race and cold war; big issues that may warrant new consideration. On a lighter note, like me, you may also be torn by the wicked desire to live the exciting life of a spy. If one must age, wouldn't it be lovely to sit quietly in your rocking chair with a secret smile as you reminisce about a life lived on the edge?

Red Joan is a great film and well worth a trip to the cinema; Dench, Cookson, and Hughes all give outstanding performances. The story is an intriguing one and it has been expertly adapted to the screen by Lindsay Shapero (screenwriter) and Trevor Nunn (Director). The cinematography and direction are cleverly used to create an intriguing contrast between the life of Joan Senior and Joan Junior. Transitions between 2000 and the 1933's are achieved by costumes, dialogue and a shift to softer lighting and wider camera angles; filling the past with a romance that contrasts beautifully with the sad and tense reality of Joan's interrogation in 2000.

Red Joan is rated M, with a run time of 109 minutes; it will be in cinemas on June 6, 2019.

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Why? Escape to the movies
When: June 2019
Where: Cinemas
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by Andrew Situ on 28/05/2019
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