Film Reviews: Surrendering a loved one to Alzheimer's

Undated film still handout from What They Had. Pictured: Blythe Danner as Ruth Keller and Michael Shannon as Nick Keller. See PA Feature SHOWBIZ Film Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Bleecker Street/Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature SHOWBIZ Film Reviews.
Undated film still handout from What They Had. Pictured: Blythe Danner as Ruth Keller and Michael Shannon as Nick Keller. See PA Feature SHOWBIZ Film Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Bleecker Street/Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature SHOWBIZ Film Reviews.

WHAT THEY HAD (15)

Based on writer-director Elizabeth Chomko's observations of her grandparents, What They Had is a poignant study of a fractured family coming to terms with surrendering a loved one to Alzheimer's.

Her script packs an unexpectedly meaty emotional wallop as characters repeatedly avert their gaze from the painful reality of their situation. Chomko shoots predominantly inside a family home where years of resentment and regret have seeped into the walls, and photographs of happier times litter downstairs rooms. Inevitable heartache is deftly balanced with humour to dissipate tension. Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon and Robert Forster elevate familiar and potentially cloying material, capturing the spiky rat-a-tat of dialogue between kin, who know each other too well but turn a blind eye to their own failings.

THE AFTERMATH (15)

A wartime love triangle set against the backdrop of a devastated and defeated Germany makes for surprisingly gloomy viewing in James Kent's handsome but emotionally starved drama based on the novel by Rhidian Brook.

Adapted for the screen by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse, The Aftermath gifts Keira Knightley another elegantly attired but emotionally stifled heroine, whose sexual reawakening wreaks havoc on everyone within her orbit. Director Kent ventured into similarly fraught territory, albeit during the First World War, in his handsomely crafted 2014 picture Testament Of Youth, which was galvanised by committed performances from Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington and Taron Egerton. Bruised and broken hearts are considerably older and wiser here but the pedestrian tug-of-war between Alexander Skarsgard and Jason Clarke for Knightley's stiff-upper-lipped affections fails to get the blood pumping.