Sometimes Always Never ★★★★

Or Wes Anderson on the Wirral.

The feature length directorial debut of Carl Hunter, former bassist with '90s Liverpudlian group The Farm, is a sweet little movie - though perhaps too sweet for some. Aesthetically it is indeed very Wes Anderson, taking its cue from a lovely, theatrical screenplay from Frank Cottrell Boyce that is dense with nostalgic, deeply suburban details. As such, we get purposefully, noticeably fake backdrops and back projection for driving sequences and title-cards made up of retro wallpaper and vintage products. It's all pleasingly done, but the artificiality of it all does sometimes mask the genuine heart that beats within the narrative and the warmth of the playing of an excellent cast that includes Bill Nighy, Sam Riley, Alice Lowe, Jenny Agutter, Tim McInnerney and Alexei Sayle, each of whom clearly relish the dryly humourous dialogue that Cottrell Boyce has gifted them. If Hunter were a little more experience he may well have held back on some of the quirks to produce something less idiosyncratic and more satisfyingly natural.

Nighy is on delightfully insouciant and droll form (complete with an impressive, soft scouse accent that shows his years in the city back in the '70s didn't go to waste) as the precise Alan, a man who raised two boys single-handed, yet always seemed to offer them the second best of everything, from toys (Action Joe instead of Action Man) and music (Pickwick's Top of the Pops rather than albums from the real artists) to even his beloved Scrabble. It was a squabble over a game of Scrabble (or rather Scribble) that led to Alan's favourite son Michael walking out one night many years ago, never to return. Now, Alan and his other son, Peter (Sam Riley), reunite to identify the body of someone who may be Michael. In doing so, Peter's fears of being second best in his father's eyes come to a head, just as Alan connects with Peter's son, Jack (Louis Healy).

In a film packed full of quirky details, one genuinely lovely thing stood out for me. It's not one many audiences may pick up on, and even if they were to, they'd need to be somewhat eagle-eyed, but it's there and I really appreciated it; it's the photo of Ken Campbell hanging on the wall of Bill Nighy's tailor shop. Given the history Nighy have with Campbell and Merseyside (he was integral in helping to set up Campbell's epic sci-fi play Illuminatus! when it made its debut at the Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool in 1976 and was due to star but wrapping his car around a lamppost in Toxteth subsequently postponed his performing duties until the show transferred to the National Theatre) it was a very touching little detail in a very touching little movie.

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