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CULTURE: This Austen's just bostin' DVD reviews Wonderland.

Byline: Mike Davies

Universal Cert: 15

RRP: pounds 9.99

*****

Still Michael Winterbottom's finest film, released at the start of 2000, it defies belief that it's not only been long unavailable on VHS but has never had a DVD release until now. Sadly there's no bonus features, but the film is reward enough.

Set across one Guy Fawkes weekend and shot on hand-held camera using only available light, its Short Cuts-styled ensemble family drama focuses on three London sisters. Pregnant Molly (Molly Parker), whose partner, Eddie (John Simm), hasn't told her he's just jacked in his job. Self-confident, sexually active hairdresser Debbie (Shirley Henderson), whose irresponsible boozing ex, Dan (Ian Hart) is having 11 year old Jack for the weekend. And Nadia (Gina McKee), whose disastrous love life has resorted to lonely hearts columns where the likes of Tim (Stuart Townsend) inevitably prove let downs.

Completing the picture are their maritally splintered parents, bitter shrewish Eileen (Kika Markham), being driven mad by next door's dog's incessant barking, and sexually frustrated, wearily ineffectual Bill (Jack Shepherd), a loving father for whom son Darren (Enzo Cilenti) leaving home with no forwarding address was the last blow.

Eddie falls apart. Bill shares a moment of tender grace with a neighbour (Ellen Thomas) whose son fancies Nadia. Dan screws up as a dad. A baby's born. Emotional storms break. Epiphanies are experienced. A new week begins.

As much love letter to South London as unsentimentally affectionate portrait of a dysfunctional family, despite its essentially bleak lives, the mood, suffused with spirited humour and raw poignancy and complemented by Michael Nyman's pulsatingly beautiful score, is ultimately one of invigorating hope not despair.

McKee, Henderson and Shepherd are standouts, but the entire cast play flawlessly with an aching honesty that touches the deepest recesses of your heart.

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Hell's a poppin' for the corpse bride and groom
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 3, 2006
Words:312
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