Sounds exciting and intriguing doesn't it? Well it's much more than the blurb suggests, and on some investigation the comments are that the writer/director Gerald McMorrow is the new Terry Gilliam. Well I'd agree with that even though it's early days for the director, he's definitely looking hugely promising and carries a fair degree of Gilliam-ness.
What's also impressive is the film itself, and just what Gerald McMorrow has managed to create for his first feature film. This looks like a writer/director much, much further on in his career. However for all that praise there are problems.
It's difficult to say much more than the film blurb without giving too much away. Suffice to say that the stories are split mainly between London and a parallel world where the capital city is ruled by the laws of religion, any religion, as long as it is one that involves some kind of faith. Everyone in the city must belong to one of the many, many religions, except there is one man, a masked vigilante, who belongs to none, and that's where our story opens.
Meanwhile in London we follow several characters as their lives come closer and closer together. An artist working on a body of work that involves her own suicide attempts, a man just dumped by his soon to be wife, and a father looking for his missing son.
Straight away this is an interesting film, from the moment the film begins it grabs you and it grabs you well. There are two very distinctive feels to the film, one is everything set in the London that we would know, and the other is in the parallel world.
While in London we follow the narrative as we would most other stories, but while in the parallel world we're treated to the voice over by the masked vigilante who does battle with the religious orders of the city.
It's a great concept that certainly does have you thinking of a Terry Gilliam film for all the parallel world scenes, however back in London the story telling is much less fantasy based and more in the realms of mainstream film-making, however that's not a bad thing and here we get some of the best performances.
Eva Green does well and breaks from our typical view of her. There's one scene in particular in the opening few where she gives her all. Sitting in a psychiatrist's office with her mother she has a scene where her anger overcomes her, and she plays it very well, building to the big outburst towards her mother, and the emotional comedown afterwards. In fact she plays the whole damaged character really well throughout the film.
Bernard Hill plays the father on the lookout for his son, and his performance is good too, although he doesn't have too much to play, his character does turn out to be extremely convincing and realistic.
Ryan Phillippe and Sam Riley are okay, but like Hill they don't really have that much to do other than convince us of the opening character, which they both do well. Phillippe really comes into his own in the closing sections of the film but there's so much going on that I wasn't really concentrating on his individual performance.
It's hard to talk too much about the film itself, and I really urge you to be careful about what you read with this film before you see it, but I can assure you I'll stay away from any spoilers and keep it down to a minimum.
The story plays out really well and has you engaged from the beginning and the individual character stories are intriguing but it's the futuristic story of the masked man that holds you more than anything.
Some will probably hate the voice over from the masked man, however I thought it served a really strong purpose, one which is much more obvious when the film has finished.
I did find myself trying to figure out what could connect these characters. I had hoped that I wouldn't be able to guess and that their stories would slowly converge with small connections on the way to a bigger surprise or two near the end. The story telling did come close to that but not quite.
About half way through the film the story started to reveal the secrets behind the characters, and while there are one or two little moments of recognition, it's a matter of minutes before the story has unravelled all its connections and layers before your eyes. I found that this big reveal was a little disappointing as I was hoping for more of a tease.
The good news though is that it's a good reveal, well I found it to be as I hadn't guessed up until that point and I found it to be intelligent and exciting, and what's more is that the reveal doesn't mark the end of the film, there's still more to come and to keep you engaged.
However it still unravelled a little too quickly for me and it could have tried to let the reveals come a little slower and tease the audience towards a surprise.
The scenes after this point keep the tension going and deliver plenty of excitement, however I did feel that the ending was a little too romanticised and perhaps a little too contrived, I even thought that for a moment we were going to hear that immortal Four Weddings and a Funeral line - "Is it raining? I hadn't noticed!"
There's something that should be remembered here, and that's the fact that this is McMorrow's first feature film, and that's pretty damned amazing considering what's been produced. This is a film that looks like it has come from creatives who have delivered a number of major films, not a first time feature writer and director. To top it all he's come out with something original and his own unique voice too.
It has some great production design, and not just in the parallel world story but throughout the London story of the female artist. The effects through the world of the masked man are well created and utilised, they aren't overly relied on and when they are used they look like they come from big budget feature but don't overpower the screen shouting CGI.
The story and direction are very strong and original, which is something a lot of Hollywood is missing right now, and it's something that McMorrow and British film should be damned proud of. I'm dying to see what he produces next, but I do hope that he keeps this unique style going. Note to Hollywood, watch this man, he's got the right idea.
Gerald McMorrow really has produced something special with Franklyn, an original story in times of remakes, reimaginings and franchises, and not only that but he's managed to create something that looks like a seasoned feature, not a first time. The production values and effects are strong throughout, and the ideas refreshing and imaginative.
However, yes there would be an however, the reveal part of the story just happens far too quickly, it unravels the entire story in one go and I think that feels a little bit wrong. It could have been so much more intriguing if the reveals had stretched out further, teasing the audience towards the final reveal. Then there's the overly romanticised ending which just feels a little too much for what's come before.
A modern Terry Gilliam? Perhaps not quite yet, but a surprisingly strong film-maker, most definitely. Franklyn is well worth seeing, and not just because it's different and original. Watch out for Gerald McMorrow.