STRANGER THAN FICTION

Starring Jude Law, Juliette Binoche and Robin Wright. Directed by Anthony Minghella.
Running Time: 129 mins
Rated: M
Breaking and enteringis a burglary theme but it can also be used as a metaphor for entering into relationships and breaking them. At least, this seems to be a key to Anthony Minghella's latest film, a London drama set in the district around Kings Cross station, taking advantage of the building projects going on there in the middle of the decade, especially for the extensions for the Eurostar.

Jude Law and Martin Freeman are two architects who are capitalising on the situation and designing modern precincts for the area. A gang, refugees from the Balkans who rely on the agility of youngsters who can leap from building to building to descend and open doors, burgles the architects' offices not once, but twice, and seem to be prepared for further robberies.

In the meantime Jude Law's Swedish partner and her autistic daughter are putting emotional pressure on him so that when, after keeping vigil at the office site (and resisting the matter-of-fact advances of one of the local prostitutes), he chases one of the thieves to his home, anonymously visits, meets the boy's mother, and is smitten. This is not too hard as the mother is played by Juliet Binoche (who won her Oscar for her performance in Minghella's The English Patient). Law finds himself in emotional tangles, fidelity tangles, police investigation tangles and business tangles.

The film is ambitious in its scope, in its frequent use of more philosophical musings on the meaning of life, and in its starry cast. Besides Law and Binoche, Robin Wright Penn plays the Swedish mother and Ray Winstone plays the local detective.

While the film is in no hurry, it is still watchable until the final confrontation between families, criminals, police and business partners in an effort to effect some kind of reconciliation and acceptance of responsibility. What might have been simple to achieve in practice becomes a major melodramatic sequence with rather hard to believe manipulations of the truth for noble purposes and what, at least one hopes, is a happy ending.

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.