Reviews

Wondrous Oblivion (2006)

Marc Calderaro

Wondrous Oblivion won’t cover any new ground on social matters, but its intent is genuine, and its characters lovable.


Wondrous Oblivion

Director: Paul Morrison
Cast: Delroy Lindo, Emily Woof, Stanley Townsend, Sam Smit
Distributor: Palm Pictures
MPAA rating: Unrated
Studio: Palm Pictures
First date: 2006
US DVD Release Date: 2007-03-20
Website
Trailer

Wondrous Oblivion, directed by Paul Morrison, takes all of the triumph over adversity via sports PG movies, such as Chariots of Fire, Far From Heaven, and Sandlots, and rolls them up into one family-friendly ball to attempt the ultimate feel-good experience.

Set in the racial turbulent and gleefully anachronistic late-50s South London, the movie follows David Wiseman, a young Jewish boy, through every movie-loop Morrison can throw at him. Wiseman is an avid collector, always learning, but never doing; he wants to play cricket, but just can’t seem get his act together. His new, Jamaican neighbor, Dennis Samuels (Delroy Lindo), has world-class cricket skill, but their relationship creates waves in their ignorant, working-class neighborhood. His mother (Emily Woof) explores new womanhood in Samuels and must find the right place for her neighbor but also her husband, the overworked sometimes-unloving Victor Wiseman. And, to be certain all basis are covered, here, David’s grandparents both died in the Holocaust.

Early on, these myriad themes severely block the mood. Is this a movie about collection vs. action? About acceptance of the other? About a journey through adolescence? The trials of a working marriage? The answer to all these questions is “yes, kind of”. But sadly, “kind of” isn’t a great phrase when critiquing. The only tone the movie can consistently muster is “light-hearted” … kind of.

Granted, all of these quasi-plots are interesting and engaging. Watching Ruth Wisemans’s descent into a secret love, Victor’s struggle to communicate with his son, and David's desperate attempt to grow up is fun. Oddly enough, the least beneficial plot thread to the story is David’s cricket playing – which is more than appreciated. Of all the light-hearted movie stories, the underdog kid becoming the sports star gets old the quickest. In the extras, Morrison says a line that rings particularly poignant: “We wouldn't bowl a bowl that doesn't mean anything.”

Indeed, every cricket match in the movie serves as an important visual metaphor to David’s development. Not only is this idea important to the overall intentions of the film, but it also lets in cricket-naïve viewers to a movie about complex sport with silly uniforms and mandatory tea breaks.

Helping out the uneven feel is some wonderful acting. Lindo is warm, embracing, and carries the swagger of a genuinely confident man outside his element. And Woof ‘s repressed Jewish housewife, Ruth, is unsure, convinced, and nurturing all in the same crooked smile. Woof (who looks like the perfect combination of Jennifer Gray and Diane Franklin) adeptly keeps Ruth’s innocence, even through her attempted affair. Even Sam Smith does an adequate job portraying young David Wiseman.

On the viewer's end, much of the film is spent trying to balance scales between the characters, stories and feels. Sadly, this workload severely hurts by making us feel frustrated during scenes that are supposed to be happy and vice versa. As it stands, the only solace we can find is in the jovial, well-edited montage segments showing David's cricket training. But even those, within context, seem unnatural and forced. In many ways, the film could've worked much better as a novel. With so many characters, and so many stories, chapter breaks would be much appreciated. Segmented sections dedicated to certain characters or plot arcs could create much-needed breath while still allowing for the covoluted plot developments.

But -- and here's the big "but" -- after all this frustration, confusion, mixed emotions and exasperated groans, the movie is genuine and rewarding. How is this possible? Through subtlety, calculation and an educated eye, Morrison makes every clichéd, cathartic act ring true. For example, when the Samuels' house is burned down and Dennis is caught inside, neither of the Wisemans we've learned so much about attempt to rescue him. Instead, it's the silent and barely developed father, Victor, who comes to the rescue and delivers the "you-should-all-be-ashamed, we-should-all-be-ashamed" speech. Somehow, this disseminates the scene's hackneyed parts. Shortly thereafter, Victor's character more fully develops and in the process, reveals his family's mistaken judgments against him and the hidden bias of our point-of-view. Another possibly trite scene showing the "yids" learn the "soulful ways" of Jamaican culture (including an awkward booty-shakin' lesson) comes off inviting and enlightening instead of banal and overdone. The juxtaposition of first-wave ska and David's proper dress and fastidious expression works perfectly. Somehow, this derailed train rights itself as many time as necessary.

Warm-hearted, family-friendly, PG-rated entertainment rarely breaks artistic boundaries. Wondrous Oblivion won’t cover any new ground on social matters, but its intent is genuine, and its characters lovable.

6


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.

Music

The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.

Music

Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.

Music

Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.

Music

Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.

Film

The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.

Music

Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.

Music

Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.

Music

Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.

Music

Songwriter Shelly Peiken Revisits "Bitch" for '2.0' Album (premiere)

A monster hit for Meredith Brooks in the late 1990s, "Bitch" gets a new lease on life from its co-creator, Shelly Peiken. "It's a bit moodier than the original but it touts the same universal message," she says.

Music

Leila Sunier Delivers Stunning Preface to New EP via "Sober/Without" (premiere)

With influences ranging from Angel Olsen to Joni Mitchell and Perfume Genius, Leila Sunier demonstrates her compositional prowess on the new single, "Sober/Without".

Music

Speed the Plough Members Team with Mayssa Jallad for "Rush Hour" (premiere)

Caught in a pandemic, Speed the Plough's Baumgartners turned to a faraway musical friend for a collaboration on "Rush Hour" that speaks to the strife and circumstance of our time.

Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.