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Every family has its own language. 

Year: 2005 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Wah-Wah

Director: Richard E Grant

Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson, Nicholas Hoult, Emily Watson, Julie Walters

Richard E. Grant’s first foray into directing takes the form of a thinly veiled autobiographical tale of a boy growing up in Swaziland around the end of British colonisation. Twelve year old Ralphie is the son of Harry (Byrne) and Lauren (Richardson) Compton. When their marriage breaks down and Lauren leaves, Harry descends into alcoholism and Ralphie is sent to boarding school. When he returns two years later, Harry has married Ruby (Watson), an American airhostess who doesn’t take kindly to the upper-class, imitating their speech as ‘Wah-Wah’. It is a turbulent period for Ralphie and Grant takes us on an emotional journey through the years he tries to maintain a relationship with his father and emerge from a shallow, racist culture unscathed.

There are some very moving moments in this film, as expected in the depiction of a harrowing divorce and Harry’s terror inducing drinking problems, and also in the confusion of Ralphie having to accept a new woman into his life. There are however also lots of hilarious moments, coming often from portrayals of British snobbery, making the film a rollercoaster ride through the emotions. The film benefits enormously from Grant being able to call upon his own experiences as he handles sensitively the unique and decadent Swaziland society and has the perfect insight to present the story with utter realism.

The cast are everything you would expect from such talented actors. Byrne is incredible and terrifying and Watson playing against type is a breath of fresh air. There is also a revelation when Hoult takes over playing Ralphie, showing how far he has come from ‘About a Boy’ (and has become rather good looking!). Between them the cast deliver strong moving performances, and coupled with gorgeous cinematography and strong direction, this is a complex social drama you will fall in love with.

Hannah Upton

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Screenings of this film:

2006/2007 Autumn Term (35mm)