When I walked out of the cinema after just having viewed Bereave I was in a good mood. I’d just spent over an hour and a half being bemused and amused in equal measure. I couldn’t hate the film because it made me chuckle so often. Unfortunately, it’s not intended as a comedy.

Bereave is, as you might conclude from the title, supposed to be a sombre, downbeat affair. Malcolm McDowell and Jane Seymour play a married couple. McDowell keeps telling people how much he thinks of his wife before proceeding to act in a way that doesn’t show it at all. Seymour loves her husband very much, despite his flaws, but is too busy with her nocturnal episodes (such as attacking the fridge with a knife or drinking wine while waving an epee around) to fix what seems to clearly be a fractured marriage, at best. Other characters include a caring brother (Keith Carradine) who also seems to be a bit of a mobster, a daughter (Vinessa Shaw) who doesn’t like her own daughter (Rachel Eggleston) playng around with grandpa, and a son (Mike Doyle) who seems to be doing okay for himself. And let’s not forget the two bad men (Ethan Embry and co-director George Giovanis) who appear just after the halfway point.

Directed by Evangelos Giovanis and his brother, from a script written by Evangelos, this film has so many things wrong with it that it’s amazing that it comes together to become so entertaining. Non sequiturs seem to pile up on one another until what becomes most obvious is that the film is nothing more than an amateurishly assembled selection of scenes full of either pretentiousness, unnecessary asides, or both. Just witness the 30-60 second scene showing Jane Seymour buying an anniversary cake. It feels extraneous, and it IS. But that’s nothing compared to the entire characters and storyline strands that just have no satisfying pay-off . . . . . . . whatsoever.

McDowell doesn’t put in one of his better performances, although he’s obviously having fun at certain times, and poor Seymour is stuck in scenes that require her to keep herself mildly hysterical, or close enough. Carradine, working with Mike Starr alongside him for most of his scenes, isn’t too bad, and Shaw and Doyle benefit from less screentime, but the best of the bunch would seem to be young Eggleston, who is consistently natural and unhampered by the horrible dialogue served up to the adult characters.

What else can I say? Some of the camerawork is nice, as carefully and sedate as it is, and the gentle score works pretty well. That’s it. I consider my final rating here to be relatively high, and that’s only because of how much it made me laugh. I wanted to rewatch it immediately, I want others to see it, I am even tempted to pick it up on shiny disc whenever the chance arises, but for all the wrong reasons.

Bereave was screened this year at EIFF 2015.

DIRECTOR: EVANGELOS GIOVANIS, GEORGE GIOVANIS
WRITER: EVANGELOS GIOVANIS
STARS: MALCOLM MCDOWELL, JANE SEYMOUR, KEITH CARRADINE, VINESSA SHAW, MIKE DOYLE, MIKE STARR, ETHAN EMBRY, GEORGE GIOVANIS, RACHEL EGGLESTON
RUNTIME: 100 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA

Film Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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