Wondrous Oblivion

Here comes another inspiring sports story!  But it's not from Disney, probably because it is not based on actual events, and pertains to cricket, a sport that baffles most Americans.  The setting this time is a lower middle class neighborhood of 1960s London.  The Wisemans, who survived the Holocaust, are the only Jewish family around.  Their neighbors tolerate them, but barely.  Things get a lot worse when the Samuels, a Jamaican family, move in next door.  So racial and religious intolerance and sports mix it up with hints of adultery, violence, and fantasy in a movie that tries to cram in too much.

Director Paul Morrison has some experience in dealing with intolerance in his first film, Solomon and Gaenor.  That was more of a grown-up one, where Wondrous Oblivion (what a great name) is more of a family friendly film (albeit a bit rough around the edges).  Wondrous Oblivion is nice, but is sometimes all over the place.  Morrison is trying to address too many issues at once, jumping from character to story to transgression and back, sometimes focusing on important issues then letting that particular storyline drop.

The main character is young David Wiseman (Sam Smith), who loves to play cricket, but frankly stinks at it.  His mother Ruth (Emily Woof, School for Seduction, Pandaemonium) is a harried housewife, and his father Victor (Stanley Townsend, The Libertine, What a Girl Wants) works hard to save every penny so they can afford a better home in a better neighborhood.  He has no time for cricket.  For a film about racial tolerance, the Jewish stereotypes are certainly in full effect.  David's life changes when the Samuels move next door.  The patriarch, Dennis (Delroy Lindo, Domino, Sahara) immediately builds a small netting to practice cricket, David finds a new friend and coach.  His game improves vastly, and Ruth finds herself attracted to Dennis, who is open, kind, and introduces her to a completely different life.

As the Samuels adjust to life in London, the stares increase and the tension builds.  David doesn't care that his neighbors are Jamaican; he only cares that they like cricket as much as he does, and that Dennis' daughter Judy (Leonie Elliott) feels the same way.  He is a bit oblivious, and Smith gives a blank, wide-eyed performance, as if he is something between awestruck and dumb, but knows enough that when he finally begins making friends at school, he unconsciously picks up their prejudices.  David also has Amelie/Millions like moments where he looks at cards of old cricket players and they respond back to him - it's a bit cute, but in the big picture pretty pointless.  Lindo gives a nice performance.  This is certainly out of his normal range of material, and it's good seeing him here, but his performance is undercut by the unevenness of tone.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 46 minutes, Rated PG for thematic material, some violence, sensuality, language including racial remarks, and brief smoking by minors.

Back to Movies