VOD film review: Save the Cinema
Ivan Radford | On 14, Jan 2022
Director: Sara Sugarman
Cast: Tom Felton, Samantha Morton, Jonathan Pryce, Owen Teale
“It’s almost a perfect film. It’s tragic, it’s sweet, it’s funny. But the ending is a real tearjerker.” That’s Jonathan Pryce as retired teacher Mr Morgan in Save the Cinema, talking about Goodbye Mr Chips. His impassioned love letter to a silver screen classic, and its lingering, treasured magic, gives you a clue as to what this film is going for – and while it doesn’t get there, it certainly gets the sentiment part.
The film tells the true story of how a hairdresser in Wales managed to save a treasured cinema from closure in the 1990s. Samantha Morton plays Liz Evans, the kind of adult who lives for passing on her love of the arts to the next generation. She runs school musical productions at the Carmarthen Lyric, an Art Deco theatre that’s a Listed building.
But all that is thrown into jeopardy when the mayor, Tom (Adeel Akhtar), gives the go-ahead for the building to be demolished – to make way for a new shopping centre. And so Liz rallies to stop it with the help of the schoolkids, Mr Morgan and friendly neighbourhood postman Richard (Tom Felton).
What ensues is far from surprising and a long way from original, and director Sara Sugarman doesn’t always succeed at crafting something with more substance than its super-sweet premise – the conventions kick in quick and don’t give the characters much room to grow beyond their cookie-cutter roles.
But Sugarman works with the cast to bring some nuance, or at least some humour, where possible, and whether its Owen Teale as a sinister member of the council or Susan Wokoma as an upbeat member on the right side of the battle, they do a lot to elevate the material. Jonathan Pryce is a joy to watch, while Samantha Morton manages to be 100 per cent sincere without becoming sickly. Tom Felton does excellent work at rounding out a fairly thankless role as the token good guy – including a believably awkward turn on The Big Breakfast. But it’s the always-excellent Adeel Akhtar who’s the best of the bunch, having a lot of fun as the corrupt mayor.
The result is an uneven and overly familiar watch, but it’s also one with its heart in the right place, at a time when the need for community venues, performance spaces and supporting the arts has never been more pressing. That’s where Save the Cinema aptly finds its strength – in capturing the magic of a movie palace in action, from inflatable dinosaurs to an audience inspired to sing by John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley. It’s hardly perfect, but it’s sweet enough to warm any film lover’s heart.
Save the Cinema is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of an £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription. For the latest Sky TV packages and prices, click the button below.