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Oliver Twist
U.K./Czech Republic/France/Italy 2005

Opening 22 Dec 2005

Directed by: Roman Polanski
Writing credits: Charles Dickens, Ronald Harwood
Principal actors: Ben Kingsley, Barney Clark, Leanne Rowe, Mark Strong, Jamie Foreman

Director Roman Polanski, whose last film, The Pianist, scored an Academy Award nomination, now aims for a younger audience with a new adaptation of Charles DickensOliver Twist. Here, we first meet orphan Oliver (Barney Clark) as he is being brought to his new home at a workhouse. After barely enduring some misfortunes there, he runs away to London, where he is noticed by young pickpocket the Artful Dodger (Harry Eden), who brings Oliver into his gang led by Fagin (an almost unrecognizable Ben Kingsley). Oliver seems destined for a life of petty crime until by chance he meets Mr. Brownlow (Edward Hardwicke), who offers a chance for something better. But can Oliver escape from the clutches of Fagin and his evil partner Bill (Jamie Foreman)?

Although Polanski has said he wanted to direct Oliver Twist because he wanted to make a film his children could watch, I’m not sure Twist is appropriate material for young children. The film is well-made, with interesting cinematography and evocative sets that certainly pull you into the drabness of lower-class London, and Barney Clark is engaging as the always-beaten-down-but-forever-cheerful Oliver. But the film lacks one very important element: emotion. While I certainly felt sorry for Oliver and the other boys, the only character I really invested in was the unfortunate Nancy (Leanne Rowe), and that was not enough to bring the story to life for me. Perhaps if Polanski had put a more unique twist on this often-adapted story it would have made a more lasting impression. (Kirsten Greco)

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