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Wah Wah

Year: 2006
Director: Richard E Grant
Writer: Richard E Grant
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson, Julie Walters, Emily Watson, Celia Imre
It's the end of the sixties and England is granting independence to former colony Swaziland. The crumbling reach of the British Empire is a parallel for the lives of the ex-pats who comprise the story, all of them in and out of each other's beds, abusing alcohol, their marriages and their families with frightening intensity.

When Ralph (Hoult, the kid from About a Boy in a young man's body) suffers abandonment by his mother and two years at boarding school, he returns to find his father Harry (Byrne) seemingly a changed man, married to a quick witted, good-hearted Ruby (a faultless Emily Watson) but drinking more heavily than ever as he sees his own worth devolve in a society that's starting to not need him.

While Ralph and Ruby form a bond and try to control Harry as he goes dangerously off the rails, the toffee-nosed microcosm of British society surrounding them tries to maintain appearances while it slowly rots from the unbearable secrets underneath.

Presumably after spending his childhood growing up in Swaziland, Grant knows what the country looked, felt and sounded like. Memories aren't usually celluloid though, however in Wah-Wah's case Grant's proven himself a skilled filmmaker at transporting us into a very distinctive time and place - using every phrase and landscape to bring it all to life.

Underpinning the cinematic accomplishments is a firmly grounded human story of people you like and can identify with, portrayed by a cast that make it look easy. It's charming, warm, sad and funny in equal measures, and hopefully Grant will spend more time on the other side of the camera on the strength of it.

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