Esther Kahn review

Navel-gazers who delighted in Arnaud Desplechin's Ma Vie Sexuelle be warned - this couldn't be more different. While his earlier film was a lively tale of horny French intellectuals, this period coming-of-age drama is best described as moribund.

A young Jew in 19th-century London, Esther Kahn is so disconnected with her surroundings - hardly speaking, emotionless - that she seems disabled. Unhappy among her poor tailoring family, she yearns for the stage. Only there does she engage with life.

The premise is intriguing, but Desplechin's lack of discipline makes a horrible meal of it. The microscopic detail of Esther's family life is pointless, the drama of her rise to fame laughable, the acting torturous - , not least that of Summer Phoenix (sister of Joaquin), who struggles to make an edgy character sympathetic. Thank God for Ian Holm, who, as Esther's fellow thesp, provides the only pleasure in a very long haul.


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