“Your soul will never be quiet until you find this place.”
One of my favourite poems is easily ‘Harlem’ by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
Like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
It’s a poem I kept thinking about whilst watching ‘The Lost City of Z’ as it shares the same theme – that of the omnipotent, all-consuming and potentially destructive power of dreams. Yet again cinema finds a way of bringing an incredible true story to light that many will not have heard of. I went in knowing nothing and loved the sense of discovery I felt as a result. Therefore I’ll try the hardest I’ve ever tried to avoid spoilers in this review.
Colonel Percy Fawcett (Hunnam) is a military man-turned explorer who journeys, alongside Corporals Henry Costin (Pattinson) and Arthur Manley, into the Amazon at the turn of the 20th Century at the behest of the Royal Geographical society. During this journey Percy makes discoveries that will lead to him have a life-long connection with Amazonia.
The film skillfully portrays Percy’s struggle to balance his dream with his family life back home in England. He’s shown to be a man who truly loves his family but has an incontrovertible dream that will not allow him to rest nor let his family take precedence. Hunnam’s performance is wholly sympathetic, never seeming truly selfish in attempting to live out his dream. It’s a true leading man performance, captivating and heartfelt as a man who’s calling didn’t come in the form of a loud shout from the heavens, but instead a siren-like whisper that is no less spiritual or innately driven. It’s a performance that almost feels like a throwback to the British cinema of the 1940s as it so founded on the complexities of duty, honour and innate conviction. There’s also the way Percy manages to retain his cool in every situation or stumbling block that falls into his path. It’s a truly believable manifestation of the extraordinary ordinary everyman that we don’t get all that often in cinema these days.
The supporting cast are of equally high calibre. Miller gives what might just be her most wonderful and most endearing performance as Nina, Percy’s wife. Whilst the phrase “Behind every man is a great woman” may be an adage worthy of an eye-roll or two it is one that is true here. Their relationship is that of mutual support, yet she is the one who must prop him up through his dreams and endure whatever sacrifices must be made. Pattinson provides his most intriguing performance as the eccentric supportive figure with unquestionable loyalty towards Percy. Holland reignites excitement, were it really needed, for his turn as Spiderman this July. He’s an incredible charismatic screen presence, quietly captivating and earnest.
The other big star is the film itself. If Hunnam’s performance is something of a throwback then so is the film as an entity. This is old-school storytelling, traditional in the way that shouldn’t put you of but should instead be read as a gold-standard. There’s something timeless about it, exquisitely filmed story of a tale that feels as old as time. A tale of man’s struggle with obsession and nature, in both senses of the word. A film that from it’s opening scene marks itself as an instant classic.
‘The Lost City of Z’ opened in UK cinemas on 24th March.
Year: 2017 Runtime: 141 minutes Dir: James Gray