Something all-too rare is squandered in Leonie: an ambitious lead performance by the stellar Emily Mortimer, that fiery swan so often cast as a gawky duckling (as in the ridiculous Match Point, which posited that Mortimer—the most beautiful woman 30 Rock's Liz Lemon had ever seen—would only be married by a Woody Allen stand-in for the money). In Leonie, she's excellent as Leonie Gilmour, the American journalist who, circa 1900, fell for the Japanese poet Yone Noguchi, bore his child, and eventually tried to carve out a life for herself on his Imperial island—all before fleeing back to the Empire State. Well-shot and sometimes briefly affecting, especially when Mortimer is given a scene that lasts longer then thirty seconds, the film moves too quickly for its many incidents to have much impact, and what limited power it builds is dissipated by mortifying narration: "Love is one of life's most spiritual and beautiful chapters," Mortimer is forced to purr. Later: "It seems I am fated to move wherever it is I seek to build my dream." Worst of all is "My mother, the woman who taught me to chart my own course, even through territory seldom charted by others"—an utterance no less dumb than saying "I took the road less traveled, even when it had no people on it." These are meant to be the words of a woman who loved poetry, remember. A more fascinating film would be some doc comprised of footage of the producers insisting yes, Emily, you really have to say this stuff.
Directed by Hisako Matsui
Opens March 22
Clearview 1st & 62nd Cinemas
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