Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Wondrous Oblivion

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

WONDROUS OBLIVION

4?/10

UK 2003 : Paul MORRISON : 106 mins

In the last two decades, Delroy Lindo has established himself among Hollywood’s most commanding and dependable character-actors, popping up in (and often propping up) films like The Cider House Rules, Ransom, Get Shorty and Gone in 60 Seconds. But what most moviegoers don’t realise is that the seemingly all-American Lindo was born to Jamaican parents in the south-west London borough of Eltham – an area which gained a tragic notoriety in 1993 with the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

It’s possible that this connection formed part of the reason why Lindo (no relation to the prominent British anti-racist activist of the same name) has made a rare foray into British cinema with Wondrous Oblivion, an indictment of racism and intolerance set in the capital’s suburbs during summer 1960. Lindo dominates the screen as Dennis, the hard-working patriarch of a West Indian family whose arrival in an all-white street doesn’t go down well with everyone in the neighbourhood.

There’s one resident who welcomes the family with open arms, however: 11-year-old David Wiseman (Sam Smith), a cricket fan whose dreams of sporting success aren’t matched by his ability. Until Dennis installs nets in his back yard, and offers some informal but expert coaching. David’s mother Ruth (Emily Woof) also gets to know the handsome newcomer – a friendship which offers an escape from her loveless marriage to the much-older Victor (Stanley Townsend). As refugee Jews, the Wisemans are sympathetic to the hardships endured by Dennis and his family – but it isn’t long before they must all deal with the uglier side of not-so-swinging sixties London…

There’s much to like about Wondrous Oblivion – and any film bringing a pro-tolerance message to our multiplex screens in the current climate (economic and geo-political) is to be applauded. But good intentions, no matter how impeccable, only go so far. Writer-director Morrison takes a plodding, unimaginative and thoroughly old-fashioned approach to his material, resulting in a film that lurches between worthiness and whimsy. A half-baked combination of Billy Elliot and Bend It Like Beckham – with a touch of Far From HeavenWondrous Oblivion ends up a thoroughly and disappointingly middle-order affair.

12th April, 2004
(seen 22nd August 2003 : UGC Edinburgh – Edinburgh Film Festival)

click here for original (note-form) review from Edinburgh 2003 coverage

review written for Tribune magazine

by Neil Young