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London Fields

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Nicola Six, S-I-X

Nicola Six (Amber Heard) always knew exactly when she was going to die: on the day of her thirtieth birthday. The man who was going to kill her would be waiting for her in a parked car. But she didn’t know how or why she would meet her untimely demise. And she definitely didn’t know who. Then one day she enters an underground club and meets three men, one of whom would be her killer.

First there was Keith Talent (Jim Sturgess), a champion darts player with a penchant for gambling. He’s a shady character, always looking for some new delight to tickle his fancy. Keith is constantly plagued with outstanding debts, including a big one to rival darts player and flamboyant gangster Chick Purchase (Johnny Depp). Then there’s Guy Clinch (Theo James), a straight-laced business man in a loveless marriage that produced a psychotic child. Guy sees an escape with the beautiful and seemingly vulnerable Nicola. Finally there’s Samson Young (Billy Bob Thornton), the narrator of the story. He’s an author struggling with writer’s block. In Nicola he finds his next novel. As he follows her while she tries to make sense of her premonition, he works her story into his. Truth blends with fiction and we don’t know if some of what we’re seeing is scenes in Nicola’s life or figments of Samson’s imagination.

And what about Nicola? We learn bits here and there about her life story. Ever since she was a young child she had premonitions. She predicted her parents’ death in a plane crash and countless other tragic events. Knowing her life would be cut short, Nicola lived for the moment. Using her looks and sex appeal, she would draw men into her snare. When she meets Samson Young she finds a kindred spirit, another soul on the brink of death. Will Samson help Nicola discover herself or will he just be another participant in her demise?

London Fields was directed by Michael Cullen and ever since it’s attempted release three years ago it’s been plagued with problems. An international premiere was intended for the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival but when director Cullen filed suit against the producers for making significant edits to the final film, TIFF pulled it at the last minute. And to add to the drama, the producers sued star Amber Heard for refusing to attend the planned TIFF premiere. Furthermore, Heard accused then husband Johnny Depp, who appears in an uncredited role in the film, of spousal abuse. The producers settled the lawsuit against Heard earlier this year clearing the path for what in turn would be the release of Cullen’s final edit of the film. However, the director will be going to court with the producers in early 2019. London Fields was released in the UK earlier this month and had a limited release in the U.S. on October 26th.

The film’s story, based on the high praised novel by Martin Amis, is an interesting concept but poorly executed. I loved the idea of a meta story, something happening in real life that is in turn being adapted into a novel. But London Fields turned out to be a convoluted mess. The reviews leading up to U.S. release were not promising. I didn’t have high expectations but was hoping for at least an enjoyable mystery with a sexy femme fatale. Unfortunately the film overall was kind of a slog to get through. I was particularly interested in Amber Heard’s Nicola Six and was hoping for at least an interesting and complex female protagonist. In one of the scenes with Billy Bob Thornton’s Samson and Heard’s Nicola, he discusses writing her character in his book and is worried that he will be accused of creating a one-dimensional object of male fantasy. And that’s pretty much what Nicola is in this movie. We learn about her past, we see how she interacts with the three men, we see her struggle with being understood yet we don’t really learn much about her. Heard delivers a decent performance as Nicola Six. She’s sexy as all get out but can’t surpass a highly flawed storyline. If there is a stand-out performance in this film it’s Heard’s boob glue/tape that holds her wardrobe in place, defying all laws of gravity.

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I don’t know if it was the theater or the film itself but the audio quality of London Fields was very poor. It was somewhat muted and I could barely understand half of what Jim Sturgess was saying. Guy’s psychotic child was played a short adult which I thought was an odd choice. Cara Delevingne has a small role as Keith’s long-suffering wife and mother to his child. It was a role beneath her capabilities in my opinion. I also wished the film explored the apocalyptic state of London towards the end of the story. We see fires and explosions all over the city, symbolic of Nicola and Samson’s impending demise. But they’re never explained. A lost opportunity to add some richness to the story.

If London Fields has anything going for it it’s Amber Heard’s sexy performance but that’s about it.

 

Thank you to Satiated Productions for the opportunity to see London Fields.

2 thoughts on “London Fields Leave a comment

  1. I was requested by Satiated Productions to post London Fields Distribution Team’s rebuttal to the overall criticism of the film. See below:

    “A wise old hand in the movie business once said that critics know nothing about movies but they know which way the wind blows. The conflicts that arose during the completion of London Fields (all now resolved) seem to have entirely distracted the critics from the film’s themes and ideas. With the result that the reviews are more about those conflicts than the film itself. Even when those themes and ideas are so current. Not that the film doesn’t take risks. It does. But if you want to open your mind to Nicola “Sex” (oops Six), Guy “Clinch” (rich of course), Chick “Purchase” (of money and fame “for Queen and country really”) and “Samson Young” (dying and old), maybe consider this:

    Sam is dying. He trades apartments with a famous writer “M.A.”, the initials of Martin Amis, the writer of the novel London Fields, coming to London in the midst of riots and a breakdown of social order. And not just social order, but truth itself. As M.A. will tell him truth “is not even wanted. Lower the flag, mate.”

    Sam is also dying from his failure as a writer. He claims to write “reality fiction” when as we will learn he is a very unreliable narrator, particularly when discussing himself. And the movie he will narrate is just that metafictional conceit, his own self-justification in the form of a narrative which we both cannot believe and yet from it find its negation, a very believable narrative of love and truth. Life may just be narrative to Sam for which truth doesn’t matter but his narrative shows us the opposite.

    Sam decides to write a “snappy little thriller” about a beautiful grifter named Nicola Sex, oops Six, oops maybe everything about Nicola is Sam’s invention. As Sam says, it is always about the girl. And what a beauty she is. As Sam warns her, “you’re every man’s fantasy”, meaning his and his fictional characters’ fantasy.

    And she tells him, “I don’t want to be one of your one-dimensional characters, Sam.” “Me too” indeed. The fictions that all men invent for the beautiful women that they encounter are brought in triple relief, as each of three men create their own fantasies about Nikki Six.
    Will Sam ever understand Nikki Six? Only in death, Amis’ sardonic inversion of the classic “love in death” myth, travelling from Orpheus and Eurydice to Tristan and Isolde. . .but now wrapped in cynicism and catastrophe. But still. . .Sam and Nikki will always be together, his creation and himself.

    We of course may never know what really happened to the transient beauty that is Nikki Six. We do know that M.A. appropriates Sam’s manuscript, puts his name on it and publishes it as . . .London Fields, of course. To great fame and critical acclaim. Unfair to Sam? Lower the flag, mate.

    The film and Amis’ novel continue the metafictional, “magical realism” tradition, running from Gogol to Nabokov, from A Hundred Years of Solitude to Terry Sothern. Because, pay attention. . .nothing is what it seems but rather what it must “really” be.”

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