Remember this name: Gerald McMorrow. If his début feature is anything to judge by, he’s set to become a very significant film-maker. You can keep your benjamin Buttons — this is how fantasy cinema should be done.
Franklyn begins in Meanwhile City, a fantasticated place that my words cannot describe adequately; but think of a steampunk-ish London imagined by Neil Gaiman or China Miéville, then painted by Les Edwards in his ‘Edward Miller’ style, and you may get an idea. Jonathan Preest (played by Ryan Philippe) — the only non-believer in a city where faiths can be built on anything, even a washing-machine manual — prepares to assassinate The Individual, a ruthless cult leader responsible for the death of a young girl.
We then move to ‘our’ London, where three further stories unfold. Milo (Sam Riley) was due to get married, but has been jilted and now feels lost — until he catches sight of a red-haired woman he feels sure is Sally, his childhood sweetheart. Emilia (Eva Green) is an art student, whose project consists of filming herself attempting suicide (though always taking care to call for an ambulance beforehand) — the again, it could just be a means of aggravating her estranged mother. And Peter (Bernard Hill) travels down from Cambridge in search of his missing son.
These four strands become intertwined in unexpected ways, and it’s here that the real magic of Franklyn happens. We start to see some of the actors playing dual roles, and it’s clear that something odd is occurring — but what? McMorrow provides an explanation which is exquisitely constructed and makes perfect sense — not to mention leading the plot towards inevitably tragic consequences… And then, brilliantly, that very explanation is undermined, and something stranger tries to take its place.
What’s going on, then? Delusion? It’s an attractive explanation, but it doesn’t quite fit all the facts. Parallel worlds? Hmm, could be, but it won’t suffice for me… No, I’m not going to go any further, because to do so would be to spoil the film — and Franklyn is a film that deserves not to be spoiled. If it comes anywhere near you, see it. Simple as that.