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biast | by maryann johanson

The White King movie review: a boy’s-eye view on dystopia

The White King red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
This sad mess of a vaguely sci-fi coming-of-age tale seemingly could not be more plugged into current fears, and yet it feels utterly irrelevant.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m a big science fiction fan
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

I really wanted to like The White King, but oh, what a sad mess of a film! This tale — of a boy living in a dictatorship who sees his father dragged away to prison as a dissident and his mother crumbling under the strain of trying to pretend everything is okay — seemingly could not be more plugged into current fears, and yet it feels utterly irrelevant.tweet

The first mistake first-time screenwriters and directors Alex Helfrecht and Jörg Tittel make is in choosing to move the action of György Dragomán’s acclaimed novel, from which this is adapted, from 1980s communist Eastern Europe to a near-future English-speaking country called “Homeland” without giving us the slightest hint how our world today, hints of which linger here, would be transformed into an agrarian, back-to-nature totalitarian state. But even that might be okay if the film had the first clue how to put us in the mindset of confused 12-year-old Djata (Lorenzo Allchurch). Dragomán’s novel may be presented from the boy’s perspective and in the boy’s voice, but the movie plays as if it were written by a child: its attempts to demonstrate how cruel Djata’s world are inexcusably simple, stilted, and awkward,tweet and lack the richness we would expect when looking at a complicated world through a child’s eyes. Making matters worse still is Helfrecht and Tittel’s direction, which is often aimless; they don’t seem to know how to focus on what they’re trying to say, what points they’re trying to make. (One sequence in which Djata steals a Homeland flag is so diffuse that it’s only in retrospect that you can figure out what has transpired. That sort of distraction, kicking you out of the story, is all too frequent here.)

All setting and little actual story, and a shameful waste of some incredible actors — inclyding Agyness Deyn (Electricity) as Djata’s mother and Jonathan Pryce (Woman in Gold) and Fiona Shaw (Pixels) as his grandparents, founders of Homeland — The White King is dull, lacks all urgency, and adds up to a whole lotta nothing.tweet


red light 1.5 stars

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The White King (2017) | directed by Alex Helfrecht and Jörg Tittel
UK/Ire release: Jan 27 2017

BBFC: rated 12A (moderate threat, violence, infrequent strong language)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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