Writer-director Martha Fiennes’ follow-up to her impressive debut, Onegin, is a disappointment. The cool manner with which Fiennes told the story of the emotionally distant St Petersburg aristocrat in that film is here frozen solid, so that what’s supposed to be a drama with a satirical edge comes across as mean-spirited dissection of a wealthy upper-middle class British family.
The family goings-on revolve around ambitious London lawyer Marcus Aylesbury (Damian Lewis) and his uptight wife Iona (Kristen Scott Thomas). While Iona offsets her low self-esteem with shopping sprees for modern art (one example of which, a colour-changing installation, provides the film with its title), Marcus allows himself to be drawn into illegal financial dealings. The latter becomes problematical when Marcus’ old friend, an investigative journalist named Trent (Ben Chaplin), sees an opportunity to get his harpy of a boss off his back with a news story he hopes will be the making of his career. Meanwhile, Stephen (Ralph Fiennes), art historian and gay godfather of the Aylesbury’s dysfunctional eight-year-old son Orlando, begins to get worrying close to the boy, while Marcus’ father, a retired judge named Edward (Ian Holm), and his second wife Penelope (Harriet Walter), enjoy the quiet life in their country home. Finally, social worker Colin (Rhys Ifans) and single mum prostitute Gloria (Penelope Cruz) become emotionally involved in a sub-plot that connects with the family saga late on in the film.
By that point, however, this over-long film has overstayed its welcome. The admittedly fine ensemble cast is largely wasted playing characters that are unsympathetic, and as a result the film completely fails to engage. (Miles Fielder)
Filmhouse, Edinburgh and selected release from Fri 8 Feb