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Stars: Kristin Scott Thomas, Damian Lewis, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Chaplin, Penelope Cruz, Ian Holm, Rhys Ifans, Harriet Walter, Anthony Higgins, Archie Panjabi, Nathalie Press

Director: Martha Fiennes

Problems of the upper middle classes. Shopaholic Iona (Scott Thomas), contemplating a breast enhancement operation, lives in a hi-tech house with high-flier husband Marcus (Lewis), whose demanding work with a powerful city legal firm leaves him too tired to give proper attention to his wife and son Orlando (Clem Tibber).

Marcus' father (Holm), a retired judge, lives in rural splendour, but harbours dark secrets. And Orlando's godfather (Ralph Fiennes), an art expert, is battered at his flat by three boys (very odd that they leave him alive, since he knows who they are). Meanwhile, on the other side of the tracks, new social worker Colin, an ex-cop (an unusually sympathetic role for Ifans), becomes personally involved with dying Spanish prostitute Gloria (Cruz) and her six-year-old daughter.

Lighting the touch-paper to this combustible mix is Marcus' old friend Trent (Chaplin), an investigative journalist who sniffs a story when Marcus, in his cups, talks about an MP client (Trevor Cooper) who has given him a list of shares to buy, in anticipation of their firms' business rising on the back of a ring road the MP is about to usher through Parliament...'shaping the nation's destiny while picking the nation's pocket'.

Way too long, the film, surprisingly delayed for two years since its completion, does still create characters whose fates you want to stick around to determine. The acting's a bit variable, but Lewis and the reliable Scott Thomas are particularly good. A series of repetitive scenes leaves Cruz and Ifans with less fleshed-out characters which is a shame, since they are in some ways the fulcrum of this fitfully entertaining film.

David Quinlan

UK 2005. UK Distributor: Momentum. Colour by deluxe.
140 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 08 Dec 2007