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  Publicity Stills of "Savage Grace"
(Courtesy from Encore Films)

In English with Chinese Subtitles
Director: Tom Kalin
Cast: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Hugh Dancy, Stephen Dillane, Elena Anaya
Runtime: 1 hr 43 mins
Released By: GV and Encore Films
Rating: R21 (Mature Content)
Official Website: www.encorefilms.com/savagegrace

Opening Day: 20 September 2007


Based on the true story of the shocking murder of Barbara Baekeland, who married above her class to Brooks Baekeland, the dashing heir to the Bakelite plastics fortune. Their only child, Tony, grows up to be a homosexual and becomes increasingly close to his lonely mother. He eventually kills his own mother, in part because Barbara takes a personal interest in 'curing' her son of his sexual orientation.

Movie Review:

Any desperate housewife will tell you that behind the face of sophistication and calmness, there is actually helplessness and depression, and it takes a lot to live with that. We have thought that Julianne Moore is the embodiment of this real-life heartbreaking persona.

After the unhappy housewives Laura Brown in The Hours (2002) and Cathy Whitaker in Far From Heaven (2002), the Oscar-nominated actress takes on another challenging role. She plays Barbara Daly Baekeland, a wealthy but miserable socialite who was brutally murdered by her son in 1972. The wife of Brooks Baekeland (grandson of the inventor of Bakelite plastics) had a sexually incestuous relationship with her son.

Talk about bizarreness.

Given the plot premise, the Tom Kalin-directed film may be inaccessible and not be everyone’s cup of tea. The themes explored have also rightfully earned it a R21 rating in local cinemas. But the portrayals of personalities may be worth your time if you are interested in looking at how texturally complex human nature can be.

The 103-minute feature first wows you with the intricately designed set pieces, costumes and props. You’d notice the details, the beauty and the delicateness of the scenes which span over years, and how hairstyles, clothes and interior designs change with the times.

The production value of the movie will also please any film fan. Juan Miguel Azpiroz’ mesmerizing cinematography, Deborah Chambers’ beautiful art direction and John F. Lyons’ neat editing add to the aesthetic viewing pleasure.

But behind this visual gorgeousness, the devastation of the characters is glaringly apparent. There is something unlikable about them that you will cringe at. Be it Barbara’s appalling method of raising her son, her husband’s uncaring attitude towards love, or their child’s warped behavior, look deeper and you’d hear their loud cries for help to lead happy lives.

Moore’s outstanding performance is coupled with Stephen Dillane’s weighty portrayal as her husband, and Eddie Redmayne’s commendable interpretation of the confused soul who eventually committed suicide in prison after attempting to kill his grandmother a few years after the murder.

You’ll leave the theatre disturbed with what you have just seen, and reflect upon the miseries and tragedies that are always imminent around us.

Movie Rating:

(The cast’s wonderful performance allow us to see the portrayal of human nature’s depressing devastation behind its pretentious prettiness)

Review by John Li


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