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THE CLAIM

Starring: Wes Bentley, Peter Mullan, Milla Jovovich, Nastassja Kinski
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Rated: M15+

Michael Winterbottom made Jude the Obscure and he has now turned his attention to The Mayor of Casterbridge. However, it is really the mayor of Kingdom Come, a snowbound gold mining town in the Sierra Nevada.

In The Claim, Hardy and Winterbottom, courtesy of an intense screenplay by Frank Cottrel Boyce (Hillary and Jackie), have left Wessex for the American west. To their credit, Hardy’s grim fatalism works well and is very much at home in this sombre setting and society.

Peter Mullan is convincing as the mayor who runs his town ruthlessly. But, the arrival of Elena (Nastassja Kinski, once Roman Polanski’s Tess) and her daughter Hope (Sarah Polley) brings to the fore the selling of his wife and child to gain gold and the claim to his town. His tragedy lies in his attempts to atone for his sin.

In the meantime (it is 1867), railroad engineers set up a base in Kingdom Come to survey the inhospitable mountains for a route to the east. Wes Bentley (the neighbour from American Beauty) is the earnest leader. Milla Jovovich is the mayor’s mistress.

The western setting is familiar but the British bring an outsider’s view to the quests of the pioneers, the harsh way of life amid craggy grandeur and ice and snow.

A grim, but distinguished film.

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