Boxing Day

Drearily protracted two-hander made on a shoestring reps Bernard Rose's fourth and least interesting adaptation of a Leo Tolstoy text.

With: Danny Huston, Matthew Jacobs, Edie Dakota, Jo Farkas, Lisa Enos, Morgan Walsh, Julie Marcus, Lyne Renee.

A drearily protracted two-hander made on a shoestring, “Boxing Day” reps Brit multihyphenate Bernard Rose’s fourth and least interesting adaptation of a Leo Tolstoy text. Resetting the plot of novella “Master and Man” in contempo Colorado, the pic hitches a ride with an amoral speculator (Danny Huston) and his chauffeur for a day (Matthew Jacobs) as they drive around suburbs, and later mountains, checking out foreclosed properties Huston’s character plans to flip for profit. Shot on digital by the helmer, the pic looks like a hundred miles of bad road, and won’t travel far beyond niche distribution.

Having mounted a lavish version of “Anna Karenina” in 1997, Rose begun a trilogy of much lower-budgeted, contempo-set adaptations of Tolstoy stories with 2000’s compelling “Ivansxtc” (based on “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”) and then continued in 2008 with his less rewarding version of “The Kreutzer Sonata.” “Boxing Day” marks the last in the series, which is good news, because it’s clear Rose’s ability to re-channel the Russian master has been played out.

Popular on Variety

Pic begins competently enough in Los Angeles, on Dec. 26 (hence the title, a reference to the holiday known as Boxing Day in Blighty), with businessman Basil (Huston) using maxed-out credit cards to get a flight to Denver. In possession of a list of foreclosed properties he could get on the cheap, and with access to funds from a wealthy dupe, Basil is met at Denver airport by English part-time chauffeur Nick (Jacobs), a recovering alcoholic whose wife (Morgan Walsh) has a restraining order out against him.

Nick increasingly tests Basil’s (and the aud’s) patience with repeated attempts to make conversation as they drive further and further afield, into the mountains. Eventually, they engage in politely heated debate about capitalism and the nature of greed, dialogue over-signposted to make the material appear relevant to the present day. Apart from that and a visit to a roadside saloon, nothing much happens for more than an hour of running time until the car gets trapped in thick snow, and the pic abruptly shifts into a survival story with a moralistic sting.

As well as writing and helming, Rose also shoots and edits the pic, and contributes as both a composer (with Nigel Holland) and a performer for its mournful score of piano pieces played in a minor key, including a Schubert sonata. Unfortunately, he does an undistinguished job in every department. But given the sensitive ear he’s has shown on other films, “Boxing Day” is particularly disappointing on the music front, especially when it inserts a blast of Henryk Gorecki’s way-overused Third Symphony at the climactic moment.

Perfs by the two leads fail to lift the material, with Jacobs (customarily a screenwriter, who had a small part in Rose’s “Mr. Nice,” and who wrote the helmer’s excellent early work “Paperhouse”) doing just OK, and Huston verging on hammy in the last act.

Boxing Day


Production: A BFI, Independent presentation in association with Lipsync Prods. of an Independent/Giant Door production. (International sales: Independent, London.) Produced by Luc Roeg, Naomi Despres. Executive producers, Michael Robinson, Andrew Orr, Norman Merry, Michael Rose, Lisa Henson. Co-producer, Philip Herd. Directed, written, edited by Bernard Rose.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Rose; music, Rose, Nigel Holland; sound (stereo), Alexandra Daniels; supervising sound editor, Holland; re-recording mixer, Robert Farr; line producers, Angela Robinson, Jennifer Morrison; associate producers, Daniele Belardelli, Edie Dakota. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Horizons), Sept. 1, 2012. Running time: 94 MIN.

With: With: Danny Huston, Matthew Jacobs, Edie Dakota, Jo Farkas, Lisa Enos, Morgan Walsh, Julie Marcus, Lyne Renee.

More Film

  • Ventana Sur

    Ventana Sur Sets 2020 Dates, a New Venue

    BERLIN —   Ventana Sur, the biggest film-TV industry event in Latin America – and bulwarked by a hugely popular Cannes Film Week hosted by Thierry Fremaux – has set dates for its 12th edition, and announced a new venue in Buenos Aires. Running Monday Nov. 30 to Friday Dec. 4, this year’s 12th Ventana [...]

  • Cannes VR

    Cannes Film Festival Plots Major Expansion to VR Program

    Cannes XR, the Marché du Film’s program dedicated to immersive and augmented reality content, is set to expand. For its second edition, Cannes XR has partnered with tech creator Positron and Brogent Technologies to introduce a new VR theater, dedicated space and competition. While keeping its 700-square meter exhibition space in the basement of Cannes’ [...]

  • The Italian Recipe

    Europe-China Co-Prod 'The Italian Recipe' Immune to Coronavirus (EXCLUSIVE)

    With production in China suffering a coronavirus-imposed slowdown, “The Italian Recipe” is one co-production between Europe and China that is poised to potentially capitalize on the resulting dearth of Chinese content. It is positioned to advance European cinema’s efforts to make inroads in China. “The Italian Recipe,” in which a famous Chinese pop singer travels [...]

  • Csaba Kael

    Hungarian Film Commissioner Csaba Kael on His Ambitious Plans for 'Hollywood on the Danube'

    Just months after assuming the role of Hungarian film commissioner, Csaba Káel has designs on revamping the film and television industries to boost content development and production, expand already formidable studio facilities and become a lynchpin for film and TV production and servicing that extends far beyond Budapest. Káel took up his post in September, [...]

  • Claire Denis attends the 32nd European

    Claire Denis and Phedon Papamichael Join Doha Film Institute's Qumra Lineup

    The Doha Film Institute has added French auteur Claire Denis and Oscar-nominated cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (“Nebraska”) to the lineup of star talent who will act as mentors for the Qumra Masters program during its upcoming Qumra event dedicated to fostering fresh Arab film fare that is opening up to TV projects. They join previously announced [...]

  • Persian Lessons Russian Cinema

    'Persian Lessons': Film Review

    In “Schindler’s List,” most of the actors spoke English, using accents to indicate their characters’ origins. In “Son of Saul,” the cast struggles to communicate in a mish-mosh of languages, as Jews of different nationalities were thrown together in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Stories about the Holocaust — so vital in trying to reconcile the horrors of the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content