Review: Save the Cinema is a gentle antidote to a weird, wild and wintery world
Sarah Morgan Jones
In a world that has arguably gone completely mad, and many of us living lives we could never have foreseen two years ago, there is something deeply reassuring in a classic feel-good film.
A film in which the stakes are high but not deadly, a storyline whose simplicity and honesty is founded in truth, populated by characters who are familiar and uncomplicated and easy to identify.
The story of people who don’t ask for the moon in life but deliver plenty of stardust and when faced with injustice show admirable smarts, wit and determination.
Such a film is Save the Cinema, the sweet and touching story of the battle to save The Lyric in Carmarthen from the conniving backhandedness of a corruptible mayor and his dodgy property developer puppet master.
Greasing the wheels and bending the rules seems to be a given for Mayor Jenkins and Martyn the property developer, played by Colm Meaney, as they plan to dispose of the art deco theatre and cinema in the heart of the town to make way for a shopping centre, with little more than a secret handshake and a cheque in the post.
It is clear neither man is familiar with obstacles, so when they come head-to-head with Liz Evans – the leader of the youth opera who, inspired by her own childhood experiences on the stage of The Lyric, passionately passes that experience down to her own sons’ generation – they underestimate her.
Surrounded by love and respect and drawing on the trust of her family and friends, Liz, played by Samantha Morton, stands firm against their dastardly plans and thinks of increasingly ambitious ways to save the cinema.
Inspired by the true battle for the cinema in 1993 and filmed entirely on location in the Lyric and Carmarthen town centre, this gently stated story is funny and moving and wields just the right level of silliness and self-deprecation.
There are the goodies and baddies, there are the young lovers and their older counterparts, the older wisdom and the youthful ambition, there’s some singing and some swindling and some feats of derring-do.
At the heart of it all are the women, shrewd, resolute and resourceful, setting the pace and leading the dance, taking charge and chances.
Liz takes the fight to the mayor played by Adeel Akhtar, with the support of her teacher and mentor Mr Morgan (Jonathan Pryce), her right-hand women and delightful friends Dolly (Susan Wokoma) and Susan (Erin Richards), her husband David (Owain Yeoman) and the humble an lovesick postman (Tom Felton).
Popping up in endearing cameo, plenty more well-known Welsh faces feature, adding to the film’s cwtchy familiarity. With a mix of Welsh and non-Welsh actors some of the accents are more successful than others, but on this sofa that just increased the giggles.
Cheesy and charming
As unashamedly feelgood as Director Sarah Sugarman’s Very Annie Mary, and striving to be as heart-warming as Pride, this film is neither complex nor challenging but it is telling a tale based on true events.
Offering a fair few chuckles and some sentimental tears, it’s cheesy and charming and comfortable, reinforcing the mantra “where there’s a will, there’s a way” at every whipstitch.
There are groanable moments and laugh-out-louders, there are possibly even a few grimaces, but from the vintage colour palette to the soundtrack to the glory of the beautiful art deco theatre itself – which still stands today thanks to Liz – it’s as fine a way to spend an hour and a half as any, on a wet and wintery afternoon.
Save the Cinema is a Sky Original was released in cinemas and on Sky Cinema on 14 January and you can see the film at the Lyric Theatre, Carmarthen until 28 January.
The film will also be available on streaming service NOW via the Sky Cinema Membership.
Save the Cinema is one of eight Welsh films coming to cinemas in 2022. Through their Made in Wales strand, Film Hub Wales (FHW) are working with distributors, Welsh cinemas, and film festivals to promote films to wider audiences.
Made in Wales is made possible through funding from Creative Wales along with National Lottery funding through the UK-wide BFI Film Audience Network (FAN). As part of FAN, Film Hub Wales develops audiences for British independent and international film year-round, funds in Wales are administered by FHW via Chapter as the Film Hub Lead Organisation.
Audiences can keep up to date with news of the upcoming releases on the Made in Wales section of Film Hub Wales’ website or by following @Filmhubwales on social media.
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