Cinema - Wah Wah

Much has been made of the fact that Wah Wah, Richard E. Grant’s writing/directing debut is semi-autobiographical - with some reviewers trying to guess at which bits are the most true to life. Grant set the record straight in an interview with New York Magazine in May this year when he stated: “…basically, everything in it happened. I just concertinaed down everything to make it into a cohesive narrative.”

The ‘everything’ he talks of is bundled up to become a nostalgic memoir on one level and a bitter satire on colonial life in Swaziland in the late 60s on the other. Wah Wah tells the story of 12-year-old Ralph Compton who witnesses the breakdown of his parent’s marriage and experiences the inevitable fallout. Ralph is shipped off to boarding school for two years, when he returns his father has remarried the brassy former air hostess, Ruby, and is wallowing in the abyss of alcoholism. As Ralph comes to terms with his dysfunctional family, Ruby (played superbly by Emily Watson) becomes an ally - she satirizes the colonial set and their snobberies and is incredulous over their use of ‘toodle pips’ and ‘hobbly jobblys’ as they all sound like ‘wah wah’ to her. It is the unlikely friendship between Ruby and Ralph that gives the film its strength. It is funny and tragic, a bit sentimental but ultimately worth seeing as the dialogue and some performances, from Gabriel Byrne and Emily Watson in particular, are very strong. The panoramic vistas and the overall feel of the film linger long after you leave the theatre. KR

Wah Wah Heat: Zachary Fox and Emily Watson in Richard E Grantís
African-based directorial debut

All Saints Arts Centre, Friars Walk, Lewes
When? 29th July 6pm and 8pm. Sunday 30th July, 7.30pm
How Much? £4.50
Lewes Cinema
(w) Website