Guinevere avoids potential clich&#233s

By Chris Simmons

Upsetting our usual moral judgments, Audrey Wells’ directorial debut, Guinevere, tells the love story of a dominating older man and an impressionable young woman.

Sara Polley plays Harper, an awkward young woman with desires that surpass her wealthy and dysfunctional family. Her escape is the suave Connie (Stephen Lea); an older man who has perfected his routine as a hard-drinking British photographer and artist complete with all the trimmings (bohemian loft and eccentric friends).

The movie implies its fate quickly. However, the anticipation builds subtly. Instead of leading the audience to draw the obvious conclusions, Guinevere leaves you with more thoughts than just, "Yes he is a dirty old bastard," and "Oh yes, what an unfortunate girl!"

Still, it’s hard to get over that whisper of worry that sticks in your head as Harper follows the same tragic path which has befallen all of Connie’s former girls. Despite discovering that Guinevere is the branding stamp for all of Connie’s ladies, Harper is determined to be the one to break his womanizing cycle. We watch the inevitable unfold as Connie, the masterful manipulator, lures the ßy deeper into the web. Or does he?

This question makes the film perplexing and absorbing. We never get that omnipotent view of Connie which would show the contradiction between the sweet face he shows Harper, and his real side that our moral outrage knows him to possess. He also seems trapped in his quest to rescue girls from their stagnant bourgeois lives in order to cultivate their artistic talents; a cycle that repeats itself with all the same lines, promises and preordained love squabbles.

This movie could be pigeonholed into the cliché of the awe-inspiring artist who impresses the young girl. Instead, we watch Connie genuinely teach Harper to become an artist through her own work and will.

With her self-realization, Harper proves the prophecy of her wicked mother wrong (who incidentally does evil better than anyone since Cruella DeVille). Instead of giving us a story where the woman endures a tragic fate and simply walks away a victim, Connie’s loves, including Harper, walk away with new depth and powers. It isn’t just a one-sided exchange of awe for the pleasures of young flesh, it is a realistic tale without naïve optimism and sentiments about how dreams come true.

Guinevere is playing at the Globe theatre starting Oct. 15.

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