Fifty Shades Freed

The ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ books and films were never considered high art. E.L. James’ writing was more akin to a down market Jackie Collins novel than Shakespeare. Nonetheless, the series became hugely popular among a particular demographic who couldn’t get enough of its adult antics. ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ is the last film in the series with its climax potentially offering merciful relief to many.

Christian (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Grey (Dakota Johnson) are newly married and look forward to the future. Unfortunately their past catches up with them in the form of Anastasia’s former boss Jack (Eric Johnson). Still infatuated with Anastasia’s charms, Jack will do anything to destroy her new union. Death and emotional destruction await with both colluding to prevent a happy ending.

‘Fifty Shades Freed’ finally ends what has been a generally mediocre series. Whilst the locations and glossy look of the films have been suitably spectacular, other facets have been left wanting. Chief among them have been the performances during which the actors wear a permanently embarrassed look throughout. ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ gives them little depth with Christian and Anastasia a terminally uninteresting couple consistently generating less sizzle and more fizzle.

James Foley deserves kudos for turning E.L. James’ crude prose into something watchable with his fair direction. The light thrills, overwrought shenanigans and romance are mechanically whipped into shape against the soft-rock soundtrack. Hopefully all involved enjoyed the money made from this series as the lack of genuine enthusiasm shown on screen highlights how ‘memorable’ the franchise has been.

Although looking expensive, ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ is anchored by cheap plotting and miniscule acting. These type of movies have admirers who happily go onto the next big screen fad requiring a modicum of thought. The best thing one can say about ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ is that the appearance of its end credits draws smiles missing from its previous two hours.

Rating out of 10: 1


Before Midnight

The third and latest in the series, ‘Before Midnight’ continues Richard Linklater’s fascination with time. Exploring the nature of romance as it evolves over the years, his ‘Before’ films have been an interesting cinematic experiment. Arriving nine years after the last instalment, 2013’s ‘Before Midnight’ continues the high standards as it focuses on time’s eternal gaze.

Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) are currently attempting to walk the oft-tricky ‘work/life’ tightrope. While Jesse is now a successful novelist, Celine is weighing up an important job opportunity. Taking a break from various issues, Jesse and Celine holiday on the Greek Peloponnese peninsula. They reminisce about old times and map a path to a future where their dreams may not match their current reality.

‘Before Midnight’ further enhances Linklater’s examination of the art of communication. The series has made a virtue of the main characters having conversations benefitting their relationship. Good, bad or indifferent conversation is better than none as the evolution of Jesse and Celine’s partnership is seen. ‘Before Midnight’ finds them at a personal crossroads with the series’ focus on realism effectively maintained. It also effectively shows how the years have enriched all facets of their union.

As always, Hawke and Delpy deliver excellent performances. Long-term viewers know their characters as well as they do with their emotional authenticity making moments stand out. The minimal Greek locations look gorgeous, once again adding visual textures on top of the astutely realised dialogue.

Going by the typical nine year release pattern, the next instalment should arrive in 2022. Until then, ‘Before Midnight’ is a solid entry full of depth that’s worth seeing. Linklater’s and his leads’ enthusiasm in keeping this series going is appreciated with a fourth outing eagerly awaited.

Rating out of 10: 8