November 14, 2008

Review: How About You

Hayley Atwell has had one of those years most people can only dream about. A virtual unknown earlier this year, she has appeared in two high profile British dramas, the Keira Knightley starrer, The Duchess and the remake of Brideshead Revisted. She gets her chance her first lead in the the small Irish drama How About You opening today in NY and rolling out to 10 cities over the next month. While I knew she was talented in the earlier films, her performance as Ellie a young woman with wanderlust is by far her most realized and confident performance to date. The freedom from her corset in The Duchess and harsh flapper hair in Brideshead has allowed this young woman to shine in this contemporary film about a young woman forced to spend the holidays with a cantankerous bunch of shut-ins in the old age home her sister owns.

Ellie comes to Woodland to earn some money before going off on another one of her trips. When her sister gets called away to take care of their ill mom, Ellie gets stuck playing caregiver to a crusty, miserable band who no one will take in over the holidays. Played by powerhouse actors Joss Ackland, Brenda Fricker, Imelda Staunton and the always awesome Vanessa Redgrave, this group who has given up on life before life has given up on them does its best to make Ellie miserable. But she doesn't give in and pushes back bringing them all back to life, and in turn she grows up herself.