Wondrous Oblivion

2006, Movie, NR, 106 mins

Review

WONDROUS OBLIVION
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Paul Morrison's follow-up to his acclaimed SOLOMON AND GAENOR (1999) is a charming English period piece about a young, cricket-obsessed Jewish boy who comes of age in a working-class South London neighborhood. Eleven-year-old David Wiseman (Sam Smith) virtually lives for the great English sport of bats, balls and wickets: When he's not playing at school or listening to cricket games on the radio, David obsessively fusses over his whites and stages fantasy matches with his prized and nearly complete set of Player's Cigarettes cricket cards. The trouble is that David isn't very good at the game: He's always last in the batting order and the closest he's come to playing on his public school's cricket team is to serve as the scorekeeper. Part of the problem is that David has no one to teach him the finer points of playing the game well. While his young mother, Ruth (Emily Woof), a pretty German Jewish émigré who lost her entire family to the Holocaust, tends to their neat, semidetached house, Davis' older, Hungarian-born father, Victor (Stanley Townsend), spends most of his time toiling away at the family's drapery shop in hopes of one day making enough money to move to a better, more Jewish neighborhood. The Wisemans are currently the only Jews living on their block, a fact that's commented upon all too often by their blue-eyed, British bulldog of a neighbor, Mrs. Wilson (Carol MacReady). Despite the odds, David's hope of one day making the school cricket team burns eternal, and is fueled even further when Dennis Samuels (Delroy Lindo), a Jamaican cricket enthusiast, moves into the recently vacated house next door. When David realizes that the bizarre structure he's erecting in his narrow strip of yard is a cricket practice net, he can barely contain his excitement. Ruth warns David not to mix too closely with their new neighbors — the Wisemans have enough trouble fitting in as it is — but as David watches Dennis teach his young daughter, Judy (Leonie Elliott), how to bat and bowl, the lure of the net and the prospect of having someone teach him how to play proves irresistible. Meanwhile, Mrs. Wilson informs Ruth that it's her job to deal properly with these far-too-dark new arrivals by complaining to the landlord, but her growing attraction to Dennis Samuels inspires her to defy her bigoted neighbors. As lightheartedly as the film plays, Morrison manages to say quite a few serious things about immigration and otherness. The momentum begins to falter a bit toward the end as Morrison attempts to neatly wrap up David's cricket career, his relationship with Judy, Ruth's relationship with Dennis and Victor, as well as the growing racial tensions on the block, but it's sweet-as-pie, nicely acted and boasts a marvelous vintage ska-reggae-calypso soundtrack featuring some of the best, bounciest songs of the era, including "Sugar Dandy," "Rudi, A Message to You" and of course, Millie Small's "My Boy Lollipop." leave a comment --Ken Fox

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