7.5 out of 10
Release Date: 25th April 2013 (DVD Premiere)
Cast: Ray Winstone, Jim Sturgess, Jodie Whitaker, Luke Evans, Alistair Petrie, Stephen Wight and Lesley Manville
Writer: Mat Whitecross
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.
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR BEFORE?
- Ray Winstone: Point Break (2015), The Legend of Barney Thompson, The Gunman, Noah, Lords of London, The Hot Potato, The Sweeney Movie, Snow White & The Huntsman, Elfie Hopkins, Tracker, Hugo, London Boulevard, Fathers Of Girls, The Devil’s Tomb, Rango (voice), Sex & Drugs & Rock-N-Roll, 44 Inch Chest, Edge Of Darkness, Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skulls, Fool’s Gold, Breaking and Entering, The Departed, Cold Mountain, Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe (voice), The Proposition, King Arthur (2004), Ripley’s Game, The Martins, Last Orders, Sexy Beast, There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble, Nil By Mouth, Love Honour and Obey, Fanny and Elvis, Final Cut, Martha – Meet Daniel Luke and Laurence, Face, Ladybird Ladybird, Tank Malling, Quadrophenia, Scum, Robin Of Sherwood (TV)
- Jim Sturgess: London Fields, Stonehearst Asylum, Kidnapping Freddy Heineken, Upside Down, Cloud Atlas, One Day, The Way Back, Heartless, Fifty Dead Men Walking, 21, Legends Of Guardians – The Owls Of Ga’Hoole (voice), The Other Boleyn Girl, Across The Universe
- Jodie Whitaker: How To Live Yours, Broadchurch (TV), Get Santa, Hello Carter, Black Sea, Spike Island, Good Vibrations, Attack The Block, One Day, The Kid (2010), St. Trinians, Venus
- Luke Evans: High-Rise, Flutter, The Hobbit- Battle of the Five Armies, Dracula Untold, The Desolation Of Smaug, No One Lives, Fast And Furious 6, The Raven, Immortals, The Three Musketeers (2011), Blitz, Tamara Drewe, Clash Of The Titans (2010), Sex & Drugs & Rock-n-Roll
- Alistair Petrie: Silent Hours, Kicking Off, The Night Manager (TV), Victor Frankenstein, A Little Chaos, Vendetta, Rush (2013), The Devil’s Playground
- Zoe Telford: Greyhawk, The Waiting Room, Teachers (TV)
- Stephen Wight: Weekender, Wilderness
- Lesley Manville: Molly Moon, Mr Turner, Maleficent, The Christmas Candle, Romeo and Juliet (2013), Spike Island, Clone, Another Year, All Or Nothing, Vera Drake, Topsy Turvy, Secrets and Lies,High Hopes, Sammy & Rosie Get Laid