The latest creation from Steven Knight who gave us Locke.


Matthew McConaughey


Everybody who loved the superb Locke (2013) will have the same question in mind on approaching this first work since then brought to us by Steven Knight as both writer and director: can Serenity possibly be as bad as rumour has it? At this point, I would be delighted if I could leap to Mr Knight's defence but, although in his directorial capacity he keeps things moving, what is on the screen confirms that his screenplay should have been regarded as a non-starter.


The pivotal character here is Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) who lives on Plymouth Island and runs a boat named Serenity in order to catch fish. When his ex-wife Karen (Anne Hathaway) turns up, it quickly appears that she plans to seduce him into taking his successor - that's Frank (Jason Clarke) - out on a fishing trip in order to bump him off (Karen may now have a rich husband, but he is a wife beater and Karen claims that the son she had by Baker, young Patrick (Rafael Sayegh), needs to be saved from Frank's influence).


Such a set-up would not be too difficult to pitch as a project. After all, the sea off Plymouth Island is a place where sharks are plentiful and the memory of Jaws lives on. For that matter, Baker is obsessed with the desire to catch one particular shark and a quest for a big fish brings Moby Dick to mind. As for a wife seducing a man into murder, there are plenty of noir echoes from originals such as Double Indemnity (1944) to updated reinventions of the genre such as the 1981 movie Body Heat (indeed, Hathaway seems to be channelling Kathleen Turner in that film, albeit without making Karen a believable figure on any level at all). The fact is that everyone involved here suffers from dialogue that you can only listen to with a raised eyebrow. Lines that are banal or clich├ęd, or both simultaneously, suggest for a while that a tongue-in-cheek approach might have worked for we get such gems as  "Some weird stuff is going on right now" and "When life offers you an opportunity like this, you have to take it".


However, Knight's trust in his own screenplay is such that he treats it with deadly seriousness, oblivious to the fact that as it develops in ever-odder ways the film becomes ludicrous. If Diane Lane and Djimon Hounsou have thankless supporting roles, poor Jeremy Strong fares even worse as a mysterious salesman whose manner of appearing and disappearing from one shot to another suggests that he could be Baker's hallucination - however you interpret the role he cuts a ridiculous figure. On top of all this, Serenity offers some pseudo-profundity about nobody knowing who they really are or who their creator might be: this leads to a final section that plays like a feeble borrowing from another McConaughey/Hathaway piece, Christopher Nolan's Interstellar (2014). Serenity creates such an artificial and disjointed world that it is simply not worth your time and money unless it should happen that you are a devout fan of Mr McConaughey's bare bottom. The film was shot on Mauritius so the cast may have enjoyed filming there in the sun and in McConaughey's case he also had the pleasure of being allowed a chef of his own.




Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong, Rafael Sayegh, Garion Dowds, Charlotte Butler, David Butler, Michael Richard, Robert Hobbs.


Dir Steven Knight, Pro Gary Heeley, Steven Knight and Greg Shapiro, Screenplay Steven Knight, Ph Jess Hall, Pro Des Andrew McAlpine, Ed Laura Jennings, Music Benjamin Fallfisch, Costumes Danny Glicker.


Global Road Entertainment/IM Global/Shoebox Films/Ingenious-Sky Cinema/Altitude Film Distribution.
106 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 1 March 2019. Cert. 15.