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Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

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There is much talk about the Oscar prospects of Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club (Cert 15) who shed three stone for his art, which is just the kind of commitment so often rewarded by the Academy.

But the astonishing physical transformation is only the part of it. He delivers a performance of raw emotion and fearlessness which carries the movie directed by Jean-Marc Valle.

It is based on the real story of electrician and rodeo rider Ron Woodroof whose free-wheeling life of of sex parties, drugs and drinking is abruptly halted in 1985 when he is diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live.

“I ain’t no fag,” he rails in disbelief at the doctor who delivers the bad news

In these early days of the AIDS epidemic,prejudice and suspicion is rife and there are no effective medicines.

Ron decides to take matters into his own hands and track down alternative treatments from other parts of the world by means legal and illegal.

At the same time he realises there is a business opportunity and hooks up with a fellow sufferer, transvestite Rayon (Jared Leto, also excellent), and establishes a “buyers’ club” to supply drugs.

It’s an uplifting tale told unsentimentally and one of McConaughey’s triumphs is to make us care for a character who starts out far from likeable and only gradually redeems himself in our eyes.

Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in Abi Morgan’s adaptation of Claire Tomalin’s book The Invisible Woman (Cert 12A) telling the story of Nelly Ternan, a young actress who had a secret affair with Charles Dickens.

It started when she was 18 and he was 45 and the father of nine children and lasted for 14 years until his death in 1870.

The film opens in Margate fter Dickens’ death with Nelly (Felicity Jones) now a teacher’s wife. Directing a school production of The Frozen Deep, the play on which she first met Dickens, prompts painful memories and the film goes back in time to follow the story of their relationship.

A shy teenager she is dazzled by the attention of the charismatic famous author but resists his overtures until the complicity of her mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Dickens’ chum, Wilkie Collins (Tom Hollander) all but force her into succumbing.

She becomes the focus of Dickens’ passion and his muse, but the relationship must remain secret consigning her to a life of “invisibility”.

Fiennes brings to Dickens a convivial charm and warmness but is also domineering and selfish. He informs his wife Catherine (Joanna Scanlan), that they are getting divorced in a letter in The Times.

It’s a film that is well acted and has an elegant look but though it proceeds at a languid pace sometimes skips over certain facts that would seem to be salient. But then so much of the story is based on speculation.