Stars: Oakes Fegley, Millicent Simmonds, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams
Haynes’ latest is meticulously assembled, beautifully acted and imaginatively realised, but the writer-director has set such a high bar for himself with cinematic swoons like Carol and Far From Heaven, that this elaborate confection still feels like a bit of a let-down. Based on the illustrated novel by Brian Selznick (who also penned The Invention of Hugo Cabret, adapted by that other auteur Martin Scorsese as Hugo), it unfolds over two time frames, fifty years apart, as two children embark upon a quest. The first black and white and mostly wordless strand takes place in 1927 and charts the journey of a young deaf girl Rose (Simmonds, who is deaf) as she goes off in search of her idol, silent screen actress, Lillian Mayhew (Moore). The other, filmed in colour and set in 1977, has the recently orphaned young boy Ben (Fegley) running away to find his father in New York City. It manages to steer clear of excessive whimsy, and, this being Haynes, the picture boasts sumptuous recreations of the two milieus, with Ben’s arrival in New York - part dilapidated wonderland, part accurate depiction of the city at its most 70s scuzzy - being a highlight. The cast, young and old, are excellent and the musical selections are spot on. But while it delivers a real emotional punch at the conclusion, as a link between the characters is revealed, Haynes’ film, like Scorsese’s Hugo, feels overextended and a little too fussy.