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Sunday Bloody Sunday (November 11/03)

Sunday Bloody Sunday is almost a prototypical '70s movie - it's a slow and meandering character study of three individuals that aren't all that interesting. What prevents the movie from being an all-out bore are the above-average performances and a frankness towards homosexuality that was presumably groundbreaking.

Bob (Murray Head) is a handsome young man who happens to be dating two people at the same time - a well-to-do doctor named Daniel (Peter Finch) and Alex, a successful editor (played by Glenda Jackson). The film concerns the efforts of Daniel and Alex to convince Bob to settle down with only one of them, a decision Bob clearly does not want to make.

If the film had been content to be about that, and excised the myriad of extraneous plot threads, Sunday Bloody Sunday probably would've been a lot more entertaining. Screenwriter Penelope Gilliatt refuses to focus on the three characters, and subsequently throws in sequence after sequence involving the each member of the trio dealing with other things. This results in useless scenes like Alex discussing the finer points of monogamy with her parents and Daniel attending an interminable Bar Mitzvah that feels as though it was shot in real-time.

At the film's core is a pivotal question that's never answered; namely, how did Bob come to be involved with these two very different figures. And since it's made clear that Alex does mind sharing Bob, why then does she stay with him? The most intriguing aspect of Sunday Bloody Sunday is the relationship between Bob and Daniel, particularly since Peter Finch has been cast in the latter role. He's quite a bit older than Bob, so it's hard not to wonder if he was perhaps married to a woman for many years and has only recently embraced his homosexuality. But once again, the film doesn't provide any answers - choosing instead to pad out the running time with superfluous scenes (such as the one that sees Alex talking to a recently-fired co-worker. Who cares?)

But keeping the movie from sinking into tedium are two fantastic performances in Finch and Jackson (Head is good, though he can't quite keep up with his co-stars). Finch, in particular, creates a fascinating character that could easily sustain his own movie. Daniel becomes someone that we empathize with, though the film never entirely allows us to get too close to him (primarily because we're not given all that much information about his past). And Jackson does a nice job of portraying this woman that's realistic about the whole situation.

Sunday Bloody Sunday should be applauded for refusing to dumb down the material to appeal to younger viewers, but the film's '70s excess prevents it from ever becoming anything more than a time-capsule curiosity.

out of

About the DVD: MGM presents Sunday Bloody Sunday with a surprisingly impressive letterboxed transfer, especially when you consider the film is over thirty years old. Extras are limited to a theatrical trailer.