I’ll admit to being a Neil Gaiman fan, so I’ve been waiting for this film for quite a while, and although I try not read reviews of films I haven’t seen, I had read a few negative remarks about this film.
However, I am pleased to report that the film lived up to all my expectations.
Helena is a circus girl. Her father and mother run the world’s greatest “small Big top” but all Helena wants is to be a normal girl, to live in the real world. Not to have to deal with punters and put on a show, but to simply live her life. And as with any teenage girl she has arguments with her mother. And during one such argument her mother, Joanne, uses that old cliché “you’ll be the death of me”. Helena instantly responds that she wishes she was.
And it looks like she might get her wish, as that evening in the middle of the circus performance Joanne falls ill and is taken to hospital.
Ten days later she is still there, undergoing tests and about to be operated on, Helena is living with her nan, and the circus is about to break apart due to financial pressure. At this moment Helena finds herself transported to a strange world.
A world where everyone wears a mask, and thinks there is something wrong with her face. A world that is out of balance and where the shadows threaten everything.
At first she believes this is all a dream, but gradually Helena comes to believe that this weird world is as real as her own, and even worse, that there is an imposter in her place back at home, in her real world.
I really enjoyed this film. There is wonderful sense of humour to much of the dialogue, Valentine in particular got quite a few laughs from the audience. But it is the look of the film that really commands attention. That combined with many of the strange, but wonderful, creatures. The monkey birds, for example are captivating, with their “bobbing” and “welcoming”. And the sphinx, wonderfully brought to life on the big screen.
All the actors do a great job, Stephanie Leonidas plays Helena perfectly, from the rebellious teenager aspect of her personality, to the worried daughter, and everything in between. Rob Brydon’s role isn’t the largest, but he still manages to make quite an impact, as the slightly too romantic father. But for me Jason Barry was marvelous. For the most part his character wears a mask, hiding most of his facial feelings, yet the viewer could still empathise with him.
The weakest part of the film is probably the storyline; a fantasy world in need of saving, a sense of not belonging, and of finding one’s place. All of these aren’t exactly the most original, but the way they are put together makes them new and interesting.