The other movie I got was Solaris, which deserves a post to itself, rather than being stuck in with Unfortunate Events. Although there are some Unfortunate Events in Solaris too: a couple of murders, a couple of suicides, some hasty and painless dispatching of people who aren’t really people, madness, an abortion, and lives lived without God.
Which makes it all sound very grim. In fact it’s not. The love story at its heart preserves it from being a minor version of Alien, and quite honestly, whatever Solaris is doing to the people on the space ship, it doesn’t seem particularly malicious.
It’s a very slow movie – though nowhere near as slow as its Russian forebear, which takes twice as long to tell the same story. But the slowness isn’t a negative feature, and I found it absorbing. (Not so my wife, who switched off very early on, even though she managed to tell me quite a bit about it later.)
George Clooney revels in having a role that’s got some depth – the role of Ocean is more like a paddling pool by contrast. Natascha McElhone (how did she ever get into movies with a name like that? It would never have been allowed in the good old days!) is an English actress I didn’t recognise, but she was in The Truman Show, and has turned up in a variety of other things, including tv episodes. Her lovely wan smile is used to great advantage, as is her puzzled air. She seems exactly right for the part.
There are virtually only two other actors in the piece: Jeremy Davies, who’s currently incarcerated in Lost, and Viola Davis, who’s one of those actresses who’s in everything but never seems to become familiar. Davis plays a maddening character who turns out not to be who he is, and Davis is a grim reaper of a woman, determined to beat the planet Solaris at its own game. When she figures out what it is.
This isn’t a film I’ll watch with my wife again in a hurry – she said you can watch it on your own sometime – but I’d like to figure it out a bit more. The central mystery becomes obvious enough, but what’s the ending all about? Is it just there to confuse us a little further?