Wednesday, May 10, 2006

WAH-WAH: Richard E. Grant Makes Directorial Debut

Richard E. Grant Richard E. Grant wears a watch on each wrist. One tells the time in London; the other is set to the time in Swaziland, the country of his birth.

The scene is based on truth, Grant says — as is nearly everything in the film, a warm but unsentimental coming-of-age story set during the last days of the British Empire.

Actor Richard E. Grant displays the same wit in his directorial debut as he did in his diary "With Nails." Grant's semi-autobiographical telling of adolescence in Swaziland is a bittersweet toast to the past.

Young Ralph (Nicholas Hoult) endures his parents' (Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson) battles, infidelity and inevitably searing divorce. Two years later, a brash American (Emily Watson) marries his dad, proclaiming the English propensity to mask what they really mean as "wah wah."

The film is so well acted that its more cloying moments -- a stage play of "Camelot" where "one brief shining moment" coincides with the release of Swaziland from British colonialization -- are moot. It's the things that aren't said and Byrne's alcoholic regret that make the "wah wah" so effective in this personal drama. (P.N.) Grade: B

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