DRAMA; 1hr 34min
STARRING: Charlotte Rampling, George Ferrier, Marton Csokas
Table manner: Rampling
Charlotte Rampling in the cast of any movie has to be an instant go-see for anyone who has done the rounds with her over the decades (The Night Porter, Swimming Pool, 45 Years — the list goes on and on). With her perennial cool a guarantee of class, this potentially hokey New Zealand kitchen-sinker, about the relationship between a resentful teenage boy (Ferrier as Sam) and his abrasive, gin-inhaling English grandma (Rampling as Ruth), is anything but under Herself’s serene command.
Booted from boarding school while grieving the loss of his mother, Sam is in no mood to deal with Ruth, who has landed on his doorstep with a broken leg and a bolshie attitude. Since Sam’s attitude is even worse, and his already distant father (Csokas) is largely MIA, he and Ruth are left to lock horns with an explosive ill will that feels paradoxically familial.
Up close and personal is patently where this contrary pair is headed, in other words, even as writer-director Matthew J. Saville (a feature-film first-timer, like his serious young star) remains resolutely schmalz-averse. Ruth, a former war photographer, is still a fighter, raging against the indignities of mortality with jugs of gin and a razoring tongue. And if the blunt force of her personality casts a long shadow, it’s in the cool light of clarity that Sam can summon the strength to move on. Juniper isn’t a perfect 10, meandering as it does in a preordained direction. But Rampling’s navigation comes wickedly close.