With some generally disappointing critical reviews I'd nearly given Breakfast on Pluto, out this week on DVD, a miss. Then I heard my friend Brian Sibley's review on Parkinson's Sunday radio programme, noticed the average score of 7.4 on imdb and decided I really ought to ignore the critics.
It's not hard to see why they weren't impressed. The film is quite long and extremely episodic, with Cillian Murphy, playing the part of Irish transvestite 'Kitten', delivering quiet-spoken dialogue that's often hard to make out. This against-the-odds rites-of-passage story features pretty much every movie cliche in the book, and at times the plot reads like a 'do it by numbers' recounting of just about every biographical movie you've ever seen.
But in spite of all that, I finished watching this DVD with a big smile on my face, and consider it to be a real little gem.
Director Neil Jordan turns what could have been a very ordinary cinematic experience into a sublime one and, as is often the case, it's mainly down to casting. Cillian Murphy is becoming a name to look out for (I've already enjoyed his excellent performances in Red Eye, Batman Begins and 28 Days Later) and he's joined here by, amongst others, Liam Neeson giving an above-average performance as the very human Father Bernard and - would you Adam-and-Eve-it! - Brian Ferry in the role of a very sick kerb crawler.
On his Parkinson review Brian talked about this being "a rollercoaster of a movie", and that's a very accurate assessment. Primarily a "feel good" experience that lulls you into a false sense of security, the shocks are frequent and fast, as one would perhaps expect with the story set during the times of 'the troubles' in Ireland. But the overriding story is an upbeat one, as we witness the story through "Kitten's" optimistic eyes. "Kitten" may be annoyingly fey at times, but we see the story unfold with the truth of her character - a character that refuses to play the role of victim, constantly taking us by surprise as she takes on the role of hero instead.
There is some wonderful cinematography here, with great swirling aeriel shots as we view the main characters as if we were the robins, shown at the beginning of the film, in flight. At times the style is bizarre and quirky (the afore-mentioned robins top and tail the movie, with a gossipy performance where their tweeting is explained with subtitles), but it all somehow works. The music score comprising perky, upbeat pop songs from the late 70's is to die for, and ultimately it's hard not to get to the end of this two hour movie without a big smirk on your face.
Extra's wise there's a commentary from the director and lead actor (haven't listened to it yet), a very short 'Making of' that features sound bites from actor Cillian Murphy, director Neil Jordan and one of the producers, a trailer and some deleted/extended scenes.
Overall this comes recommended from me, and deserves that 7.4 rating on imdb, although the subject matter means it won't be to everyone's tastes.