When consummate New Yorker Woody Allen sets a film in the United Kingdom, as he has for the third time with Cassandra’s Dream, the indigenous characters don’t always sound authentically British apart from their accents. The dialogue assigned to two working-class brothers with money worries seems oh-so-American: “I wasn’t put on this earth to run a restaurant,” laments Ian (Ewan McGregor), who works at his dad’s eatery but wants to participate in a risky real estate venture. Meanwhile, Terry (Colin Farrell), a mechanic, is addicted to alcohol and gambling. A winning bet at a dog race enables them to buy a boat, which they dub Cassandra’s Dream in honor of the triumphant canine.
But, as Ian falls for Angela (Hayley Atwell), a self-centered actress, and hoodwinks her into believing he’s a man of means, Terry’s luck changes drastically at the track. In need of cash, the lads turn to their fabled Uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson), a wealthy plastic surgeon visiting from California. He agrees to help them, but for a steep price: Martin Burns (Phil Davis), a colleague about to ruin him by blowing the whistle on some nefarious business deal, must be eliminated with extreme prejudice.
It’s perplexing that Allen’s script has Howard entrust such a task to his obviously ill-equipped nephews, especially the fragile Terry. The role appears to be a departure for Farrell, usually seen in more self-assured if not smug roles, and he does a credible job. The fact that he bears not even the slightest physical resemblance to McGregor is initially distracting but later obscured by their chemistry as close-knit siblings whose love for each other is put to the test.
They never do get the lingo quite right, however. Cassandra’s Dream is pleasing to the eye, courtesy of cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, but unconvincing to the ear.
Distributor: Weinstein Co.
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell, Tom Wilkinson, Hayley Atwell and Phil Davis
Director/Screenwriter: Woody Allen
Producers: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum and Gareth Wiley
Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexual material and brief violence
Running time: 109 min.
Release date: January 18, 2008
Reviewed: Toronto International Film Festival 2007