Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

One of the reasons that ‘Flashbacks of a Fool’ made it into my Netflix Cue is partly because there are these Internet ads advertising this movie, completely assaulting me and standing in the way of me doing my normal Internet stuff. I am assuming that this is because there’s another James Bond movie coming out and the producers are trying to ride the Daniel Craig - James Bond wave, which is all good because I guess you gotta get your dollar back anyway you can, but damn those ‘Flashbacks of a Fool’ Internet ads were annoying. But Internet ads aside the movie itself was actually pretty good. I would imagine if you were a teenager growing up somewhere in England in the late 1970’s this movie would be GREAT considering how the music and atmosphere were so intricately woven into the narrative, but even being just a colonist did little lessen my enjoyment of this coming of age tale.

Our film opens with a stylized musical montage of a little boy playing in the woods with his best friend and slowly transitions into a much bigger boy playing in his bed with… errr… other friends. And for people who give a damn about this kind of thing, but you do get to spend some up close and personal time with James Bond’s bare ass. If you care about that kind of thing. Personally I wish Mr. Craig had a pair of boxers handy. This bigger boy is the completely self indulgent drugged out fading movie star Joe Scott (Craig) and here he is strung out in his house on the hills after a night of cheap sex and expensive drugs. Soon the woman who is apparently his only friend on the mainland shows up as she does every day to clean his house and pull Joe back together, his housekeeper Ophelia (Eve). Ophelia does her duty, threatens to quit, extorts money from Joe to stay around and lets his Beverly Hills dealer into the house for Joe’s daily transaction and this is when Joe gets a call from his mum that tragedy has befallen his best friend Boots from back home.

Still reeling from this tragedy, Joe then learns that he’s too old for a plum part, his agent kicks him to the curb and with his world falling apart Joe makes like Burt Reynolds from that movie ‘The End’ and swims out into the Pacific Ocean drugged out and drunk. Now, while floating in the Pacific, it’s time for Joe the Fool to flashback to simpler times when he was a teenaged boy (Harry Eden) and used to do the things that teenaged boys would do which included palling around with his best bud Boots (Max Deacon) where they would do wacky stuff like circle jerk. Now I was a teenage boy for a few years and for the life of me I can’t remember me and my group of my friends ever thinking that team masturbation was ever a good idea. Either I blocked that little childhood anomaly out my mind or perhaps it’s just a British thing. Anyway, Joe has a loving widowed mom (Olivia Williams) a darling baby sister, a local girl he’s crazy about named Ruth (Felicity Jones) and probably most importantly for any teenage boy, a terminally horny married neighbor in Evelyn (Jodhi May) that really seems to be crazy about him. And it’s not a ‘good’ kind of crazy.

So Joe lives his life in this shoreline town, has some fun as we would hope any teenage boy would do until something really, really bad happens which changes the young Joe Scott’s life forever, events which has eventually led him to his present point in time. Now the adult Joe needs to go back home, say goodbye to an old friend, make things right with those he left behind and hopefully rediscover the real him… or something.

Now it’s that ‘or something’ that does manage to slightly derail what is otherwise a very entertaining film, but more on that in a bit. The performances are stellar with Daniel Craig delivering yet another fine performance, as he has done in most of his pre-superstar James Bond career. The movie is basically two different films wrapped into one with twenty five years of space in-between, different characters, mostly different actors and an ocean separating the two the stories, yet director Baille Walsh does a fine job in making these completely separate stories seem as if they are actually connected into one coherent film. The director, who has some experience in the music video realm, puts that experience to good use with a couple of nicely shot musical sequences and overall Mr. Walsh makes very good use of music and applying it to his film. In addition to the great use of music and solid performance, ‘Flashbacks of a Fool’ is just a nice film to look at as Cinematographer John Mathieson’s photography is outstanding.

Now if there’s a problem with ‘Flashbacks of a Fool’, and this would be a debatable one depending on what you’re looking for, is that all of these niceties that populate the film don’t really add up to a hell of a lot. Joe Scott is an interesting character but there’s not much in his teenage years which gives us much insight on his ascent or descent into what he was and has become, and there’s no real resolution with the character either. Since there is a twenty five year gap it is difficult to tell the relationship that Joe has had with his mother, his sister or even if he had a relationship with Boots during those twenty five years. Essentially ‘Flashbacks of a Fool’ doesn’t really have any kind plot so to speak.

But then this was probably by design as Baillie Walsh has written and directed a story that simply lets us look into these two different worlds inhabited by the same dude. We don’t learn a heckuva lot about that dude, but his world and those around him are still pretty fascinating to observe.

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