×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Luna’

Multihyphenate Dave McKean's long-delayed feature is a small but impressive mix of fantasy and emotionally grounded drama.

With:
Ben Daniels, Dervla Kirwan, Stephanie Leonidas, Michael Maloney, Maurice Roeves.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1695388/

English multimedia artist Dave McKean’s third feature — it would’ve been his second, had not funding woes greatly delayed post-production on a film that completed principal photography in 2007 — is a more personal project than his first, the Neil Gaiman-based “Mirrormask.” (Not to mention 2012’s relatively little-seen “The Gospel of Us,” a performance record of a modern passion play starring Michael Sheen.) Yet like that 2005 debut, “Luna” deploys fantasy elements in service of an emotionally grounded story that transcends standard genre categories. This delicate, poetic drama of two couples working through issues of grief and longing over a long country weekend is a minor commercial prospect, but should find some admirers beyond the fest circuit in home formats.

After a mysterious opening animated sequence in which a paper airplane/bird is sent by a woman to a distant tower, we meet our real-world protagonists. Nearly losing their way on serpentine rural roads, Grant (Ben Daniels) and Christine (Dervla Kirwan) are visiting, for the first time in many years, their old art-school classmate Dean (Michael Maloney), along with his much younger spouse, Freya (Stephanie Leonidas). It’s an awkward reunion: The first couple dropped all social contacts after losing a child. While Freya insisted on inviting them over, Dean remains skittish about the emotional minefield he fears they’ll bring with them — perhaps also partly because he’s done so well professionally (as an author/illustrator/children’s and graphic novelist, etc., rather like McKean himself), while his longtime friends have struggled, their own creativity sapped by personal loss.

Dinner goes well enough, until a story Freya tells of the bizarre rumored history of their rambling coastal country home, triggering an emotional outburst from Christine, still inconsolable over their child’s death. But even before that, she experiences visions of a spectral child who raids the table, unseen by anyone but her. Later in bed, Grant has an apparent nightmare of more otherworldly children emerging from a wardrobe with horns on their heads. Whether such sights are dreams, waking imaginative rambles, or something supernatural is left ambiguous in McKean’s skillful weave, which eventually encompasses several different animation techniques, as well as both fantastical and realistically intimate live-action.

The next day, the women and men separate for some bonding time, confiding various secrets and insecurities. But something triggers Grant — the emotional “rock” his wife depends on — to hit the bottle, in an apparent relapse that turns the group’s second dinner into an exercise in hostile provocation. In the aftermath, fantasy elements increasingly blur into the real-world ones, leading to some crises but also resulting in a pleasing, cathartic closure of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Having worked in a dizzying array of media — from album covers, magazine and promotional illustrations to various types of film work, not to mention Dean’s various outlets — McKean approaches “Luna’s” complicated, unclassifiable aesthetic and thematic mix organically, with a minimum of self-consciousness or fuss. While there have certainly been more gripping and incisive cinematic portraits of the grown-up issues at core here, one must appreciate McKean’s addressing them with via imaginative leaps, particularly in an era when the “fantasy” so pervasive onscreen is almost exclusively juvenile in content. (Reportedly the pic was inspired by two close friends losing a child just as the filmmaker and his wife were successfully starting their own family.)

The principal quartet of highly qualified actors give strong performances. Despite the pic’s rather tortuous production history, tech and design elements are quite seamless and inventive on a modest scale. Among myriad other hats here, McKean co-composed (with Iain Ballamy) and played on the original score, which is attractive (Dhafer Youssef is featured on oud and vocals), but a little more incessant than necessary.

Film Review: 'Luna'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, May 9, 2015. (In San Francisco Film Festival; 2014 Toronto, Raindance film festivals.) Running time: 102 MIN.

Production: (U.K.) A Luna Prods. presentation. (International sales: Media Luna, Cologne, Germany.) Produced by Simon Moorhead. Executive producers, Clive Banks, Keith Griffiths.

Crew: Directed, written by Dave McKean, from a story by McKean, Allen Spiegel. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Anthony Shearn, Luke Bryant; editors, McKean, Emily Rosen-Rawlings; music, Iain Ballamy, McKean; art director, Paul Frost; costume designer, Robert Lever; sound, Ian Sands; re-recording mixer, Ben Baird; character design/animation, McKean; assistant directors, Oliver Robinson, Jo Lea.

With: Ben Daniels, Dervla Kirwan, Stephanie Leonidas, Michael Maloney, Maurice Roeves.

More Film

  • Octavia Spencer Bryce Dallas Howard

    Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard to Reunite for Comedy 'Fairy Tale Ending'

    Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard will reunite for the ensemble comedy “Fairy Tale Ending.” Jim Hecht (“Ice Age: The Meltdown) and Tracy McMillan (“Marvel’s Runaways”) are writing the screenplay. More Reviews TV Review: HBO's 'Brexit' TV Review: 'Deadly Class' on SyFy Howard will also produce the Universal movie through her Nine Muses Entertainment alongside [...]

  • Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at DuArt

    Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at New York's DuArt Film Labs, Dies at 88

    Robert Smith, a longtime executive with New York’s DuArt Film Labs, died Jan. 11 in Montvale, N.J. He was 88. Smith spent some 62 years with DuArt, the film processing and post-production facility founded in 1922 in the penthouse of an automobile garage in Midtown. Smith rose to president of DuArt before retiring in 2015. [...]

  • Bird Box

    Los Angeles On-Location Feature Filming Surges 12.2% in 2018

    On-location feature filming in Greater Los Angeles expanded impressively in 2018, gaining 12.2% to 4,377 shooting days, according to FilmL.A. Production activity for feature films rose 15.5% to 1,078 shooting days during the fourth quarter, with 146 days coming from projects receiving California tax credits — including Netflix’s “Bird Box,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a [...]

  • 'Ghostbusters': First Look at Jason Reitman's

    Watch the First Teaser for Jason Reitman's 'Ghostbusters' Sequel

    If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, it’s time to watch a teaser for Jason Reitman’s “Ghostbusters” forthcoming film. Sony Pictures released a first look at the upcoming movie, a sequel to the 1984 classic. The footage shows a glimpse of the memorable station wagon Ecto-1. The studio announced on Tuesday that the wheels are [...]

  • Anne Hathaway

    Anne Hathaway to Star in Robert Zemeckis' 'The Witches' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anne Hathaway has closed a deal to star as the Grand High Witch in Robert Zemeckis and Warner Bros.’ “The Witches” adaptation. Variety first reported that Hathaway was holding the offer for both that and “Sesame Street,” and at the time, scheduling for both films were holding up dealmaking. With those issues settled, Hathaway is [...]

  • Film Ratings Overhauled in the U.K.,

    Film Ratings Overhauled in the U.K. With Tougher Restrictions on Sexual Content

    The body that oversees film ratings in the U.K. is tightening its age restrictions and giving movies with certain types of sexual content older age ratings. The British Board of Film Classification said the changes were in response to public demand after a consultation that took in the views of over 10,000 people in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content