Whether it be the life of Tristram Shandy or some ancillary players in a Charlie Kaufman film, adapting a great story from one medium to another can be a daunting task. Dimensions must be added or shrunk to accommodate the new platform, and the prose can be lost in translation. In 2018, The 1999 novel by novelist Martin Amis proved a tricky tale to adapt yet found a way to be accommodated on the cinema screen. The apocalyptic fate of a writer and a predestined damsel in London Fields.
London is in crisis, and a terminally ill author by the name of Samson Young decides to spend the lasts days of his life capturing it. His sightseeing excursion of the city’s underbelly is upended when a femme fatale walks into the same watering hole as him. She goes by the name Nicola Six, intriguing Young, she has a premonition, that she will die at the hands of a lover. This is equally distressing as Six’s premonitions have a nasty habit of becoming true, with three suitors/suspects dangling on the line with her charms. Six entrusts Young to chronicle her final moments, as she plays with the hearts of many courters, powerless to prevent her death.
Starting with a haunting cover of Walking After Midnight by Patsy Cline does an excellent job of setting up the feel of the film. Suffice to say, style is the core of the film, as I guess the novel is the inspiration for that. London is recognisable yet feels of a different time and place. It is very effective, though I can imagine that the is going to be very divisive as some may be put off by such artistic excess. Those who can embrace this will be treated to frequent call-backs to The Enola Gay, atomic testing, and even scenes within scenes being rewritten by said characters. Culminating in a meta-awareness, one that is playful, that once again evokes Amber Head’s previous film Syrup.
I am getting ahead of myself. The cast is great at bringing Amis’s characters to the screen. Thornton’s drawl is perfect as the author Young who is on his last legs. Accompanied by Amber Head as the dominant yet doomed Nicola Six, not to be confused with Six, although it could be argued that there are some similarities. Along with her suitors from Theo James as Guy Clinch, an already married toff who is convinced she is just some innocent virgin, trying to track down a lost friend. To Jim Sturgess as Keith Talent a brutish thug who Six has wrapped around her finger. Clever cameos are present too, with Jason Issacs lends his voice and likeness to Mark, a friend who lends him his apartment for his final trip, even a cameo by Johnny Depp, who once again seems to be drawn to the streets of London.
Seeping with visual metaphors, intriguing ideas and quite a few well-known names, London Fields is a smoky stylised whodunnit with more than enough character for three whole films, let alone one. The film takes you on a trip of an unrecognisable London in its dying days while also taking to take part in a darts tournament, The whole equating in a fine adaption that is unafraid to put style in front of substance and feels welcoming to those who are willing to meet this film halfway. London Fields captures the drama worthy of its city.
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