Six Minutes to Midnight: Film Review

Six Minutes To Midnight

I love a period drama that shines a light on something I never knew about before and Six Minutes to Midnight certainly fits the bill.

The movie, directed by Andy Goddard and co-written by its star Eddie Izzard, is set 17 days before the start of World War II in 1939 and is inspired by the real Augusta Victoria College for girls in Bexhill-on-Sea on the south coast of England. The Nazi finishing school, the first and last school of its kind, had 20 German girls and was run by the English headmistress, Frau Rocholl (Judi Dench), and two teachers. When the English teacher disappears under mysterious circumstances, government agent Thomas Miller (Izzard) gets hired as his replacement so he can investigate what is going on at the school.

The fact that the finishing school actually existed blows my mind and I couldn’t wait to learn more about it. The opening scenes of the English teacher hunting frantically for something important, dashing away from the school and being taken out on Bexhill pier immediately hooked me in and I was gripped, excited to get to the bottom of what happened. The crime drama created around the real-life place was very interesting and engaging and I enjoyed the way the mystery unravelled. It gets more thrilling and dramatic as it goes on and Miller gets closer to the truth, but it’s not perfect, and I wasn’t completely sold on the ending.

Izzard isn’t somebody you’d expect to be cast as a government agent but I quite liked that – it was refreshing and it made sense as his appearance makes him a good fit for an undercover agent posing as a teacher. Dench is reliable as always, Jim Broadbent was delightful as the cheery bus driver Charlie, and James D’Arcy made a big impact as police officer Captain Drey. However, my favourites were Carla Juri as the other teacher, Frau Keller, and Tijan Marei as Gretel, an outsider amongst the girls.

Six Minutes to Midnight has some flaws here and there but I enjoyed the twists and turns of the story so much that I didn’t really mind them.

On Sky Cinema from Friday 26th March

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Made in Italy: Film Review

Made in Italy

Liam Neeson and his son Micheal Richardson have teamed up to play an onscreen father-son duo grieving a profound loss in this pleasant yet unoriginal comedy-drama.

Richardson plays Jack, who is about to lose the London art gallery he runs unless he can find some cash to pay off the owners, his estranged wife’s parents. The easiest solution, so he thinks, is to do up his family’s villa in Tuscany, Italy, and sell it, so he recruits his father, the acclaimed artist Robert Foster (Neeson), and they head to Italy to restore the former family home – but the villa, which has stood empty for 20 years, has fallen into disrepair and they soon realise it’s going to take much longer and require much more manpower to bring the dilapidated home back to its former glory than they expected. During the restoration project, they confront and grieve the loss of Jack’s mum/Robert’s wife, who died when Jack was only seven.

The film, written and directed by actor James D’Arcy in his feature directorial debut, is a perfectly pleasant movie that would work well for an afternoon on the sofa with your mum. It tells a very familiar, overly sentimental, and predictable story – you can call the ending from miles away – but it’s still a lovely, easy, inoffensive watch, with a handful of laugh-out-moments and enough beautiful shots of Italy to give me envy. I also love a good old house makeover show so I enjoyed seeing the villa come back to life.

Richardson plays Jack as this likeable, down-on-his-luck guy who just needs to catch a break amid his separation from his wife, something which he feels unable to discuss with his father as they have a strained relationship and haven’t spoken for two months. They have always avoided talking about Jack’s mother’s death, something which Robert thought would save Jack from his pain but it has just led to resentment. The trip forces the duo to examine where they’re at in their lives and reconsider their priorities.

The film has a personal resonance for the lead stars as they have grieved the exact same loss in real-life with Natasha Richardson (who died in different circumstances). You can’t help but think of that towards the end when the actors address their grief head-on. They both did well with the material they were given. I also enjoyed Lindsay Duncan as their no-nonsense British estate agent Kate Lewis, who monitors the progress of the restoration, and Valeria Bilello as Natasha, a charming local Italian chef.

Made in Italy is very flawed but there’s no denying it’s quite a comforting watch.

On Amazon Prime Video from Friday 26th March

Rating: 3 out of 5.