I’ve been trying to settle on a rating since I saw it last night. I loved it, but I feel it is flawed. I think my major problem is that Benjamin is such a passive character and he never really shows outward emotion despite experiencing so much death, war, loss of love, birth, pain, joy, ect. It’s already hard to relate to him based on his “unusual circumstances.” Both the way the character is written and the way he’s performed put him at an even further distance from the audience. It becomes much more of Daisy’s story by the third act, even with Benjamin’s voice-over narration. I felt like the development of Benjamin’s character was really lacking especially considering the amount of time given.
Despite that, the film worked for me on every other level. I loved the whole supporting cast, and most of the characters feel fully realized even with limited screentime. Blanchett is the real star here, but Taraji P. Henson and Tilda Swinton are fantastic as well. The film is beautifully constructed – the camerawork, lighting, costume design, sets, all fantastic. Alexandre Desplat’s score seems the surefire winner at the Oscars and of course the makeup work will win, very impressive. The shot where the sun comes up and illuminates Jason Flemyng’s aged face shows how much detail and accuracy the makeup acheived. I thought the digital aging looked great too, it never looked awkward or creepy.
I really like long films like this that give their characters and themes time to breathe. The structure really worked for me, including the framing device with Daisy and the diary, as well as the bookends about the clock that went backwards (the story about the clockmaker at the beginning is incredible). The ending was bittersweet, to me, not just depressing, but done in such a way that is poignant and has a lingering effect. The screenplay also has a lot of unexpected humor – the running gag with the lightning is hilarious. It really has all the elements to make a timeless film… if only Benjamin was a more strongly developed character, it would be pretty much perfect.