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Effie Gray
  • Composed by Paul Cantelon
  • Lakeshore Records / 2015 / 42m

Effie Gray is the true story of a Victorian woman who feels increasingly isolated from her new husband, famous art critic John Ruskin, and goes on to fall in love with the painter Everett Millais.  Ultimately it probably received more attention for the lawsuits it attracted (two separate accusations of plagiarism – both defeated – were brought against screenwriter Emma Thompson) than anything else, appearing and then quickly disappearing from cinemas in 2014. Paul Cantelon’s score is generally lovely, at least in its first half, focusing almost obsessively on a series of piano solos which drive the whole thing, accompanied by strings and winds but for the most part they are playing supporting roles.  His main theme is excellent, one of those clever pieces which is one thing on the surface but somehow something else underneath – a somewhat hesitant journey through an idyllic setting rather pointedly conveying that for all the beauty, things aren’t quite as they seem.

A number of other distinct themes crop up throughout the score, cut very much from the same cloth, with varying degrees of outward warmth. At times the orchestration is exquisite, the slightest feather of a flute seeming to blow in the wind along with the piano; at others perhaps less so, with things seeming more heavy-handed on more than a couple of occasions.  As the score progresses it does become at first less outwardly sunny before frankly becoming downright miserable, serving the needs of the film no doubt but I for one wanted to chuck the bloody piano out the window after about half an hour and put something a bit more cheerful on (Morrissey, perhaps). I’m joking of course but for some reason I do enjoy Effie Gray rather less than I feel I should.  The album isn’t long but seems to last forever.  Oddly, in small doses it’s great – take a track off and listen to that by itself and chances are it’s elegant and well-crafted and impressive – but somehow, put it all together and it doesn’t quite hold together as well, coming across as being perhaps a little too earnest for its own good.  That’s not to say it isn’t worth hearing – it’s nice to hear something very different from the Rachel Portman approach for a film like this and so much of it is impressive.  I can imagine a lot of people will like it a lot; it’s just one of those where to me the whole feels less than the sum of the parts.

Rating: *** | |

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