7.5 out of 10

Release Date: 25th April 2013 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Mat Whitecross (Spike Island / Sex & Drugs & Rock-N-Roll)

Cast: Ray Winstone, Jim Sturgess, Jodie Whitaker, Luke Evans, Alistair Petrie, Stephen Wight and Lesley Manville

Writer: Mat Whitecross

Trailer: ASHES

To Be Proofread: Ashes escapes being a disease of the week ITV actors ‘showcase’ through sheer verve and invention from all involved.  Ashes contains the best Ray Winstone (FATHERS OF GIRLS) performance since The Proposition or Sexy Beast (which was first?)  and he’s matched by a wrought Jim Sturgess (CLOUD ATLAS).  The plot weaves and bobs around throwing in a few nice twists and turns along the way, perhaps exploiting the central memory loss of one Ray Winstone‘s character a bit too literally.  What could have been corny turns out to be revelatory and extremely moving thanks to such a towering and devastating portrait of dementia by Ray Winstone, who re-establishes himself as one of the UK’s most talented actors.

Jamie (Sturgess) is on a mission to locate his long lost Dad, Frank (Winstone), who has turned up with senile dementia at a care home in the North of England. He breaks his father out of the care home and takes him on a rad trip back home, hoping to jog his memory. What starts out as a potential meet-cute quikcly establishes itself as something all together darker and more intriguing.  Who is the woman that haunts Frank’s peripheries. Who are the angry men on the phone, hectoring Jamie to hurry up and bring Frank ‘home’.  What lies ahead is an exhausting journey, but it’s never dull.  The story keeps on evolving but never at the expense of the characters.  The characters are the plot. Both of the leads begin to reveal streaks of back story and the reasons behind Frank’s rescue / abduction from care.  Ashes essentially ends up being a fable and by the end it’s all the better for it.

Director Mat Whitecross adapts the fractitious approach to narrative that he did in his debut – Sex & Drugs & Rock-N-Roll. It works well in mirroring the splinters of lost memories emerging from the gloom.  Past acquaintances, double as ghosts, or roles being reversed as the mind betrays Frank.  Sometimes, entire sequences spool out for minutes and it’s not until the closing sequences of the movie do they begin to add up to make sense, so less patient viewers may find this a bit of a headache inducing device. I found it necessary to the disorienting nature of the story and it helped to enhance ad propel the narrative alongside the note perfect performances.

Ashes will only serve to highlight that Ray Winstone has been missing in action recently, squandering his awesome talents on sh*t like Fathers of Girls or Elfie Hopkins.  Choices like those belie a generous man that wants his family to succeed like his has -(Fathers was for his brother in law – Elfie was for his daughter).  I’m relieved that he’s actually still getting sent quality, challenging scripts such as this. I’m also surprised that this did not get a cinema release in the UK – instead big budget insipid crap like Diana or About Time dominates. The UK industry doesn’t seem capable of championing good dramas any more and this is a particularly good example of one such movie that will get buried within months of its DVD release.  It may be slightly hokey but that’s the nature of any moral / fable.  It’s rare for something so plot-led to be so compelling.  We’re spoilt by two great central performances.  Ashes is rounded out by a great supporting cast made up of Luke Evans (NO ONE LIVES) and Jodie Whitaker (BROADCHURCH) but this is essentially a superb two-hander.

7.5 out of 10 – Not everybody’s cup of tea. But this is a great reminder of how brilliant (given the right role) the towering Ray Winstone can be.  This is his best performance in years and Ashes has a wonderfully emotional story that puts a lot of it’s contemporaries to shame.  Why wasn’t this a cinema release? Straight to DVD is a sad end for it. Seek it out. Highly recommended.



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