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Serenity
  • Composed by Benjamin Wallfisch
  • Milan / 63m

I don’t think it’s supposed to be a comedy, but I haven’t laughed as hard at a film as Serenity since the last time I saw the immortal words “Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker” appear on a screen. It’s an extremely strange film starring Matthew McConaughey as a very angry fisherman who lives in a shipping container and is determined to catch a giant tuna which has a personal vendetta against him, and meanwhile whose ex-wife (Anne Hathaway) wants him to kill her new husband – and Rex Hamilton as Abraham Lincoln. Every review of the film mentions the big twist which comes half way through but even though you strain to work out what it is going to be, it will probably take you by surprise and leave you rolling around the floor in laughter, wondering what the hell you’ve done with the last hour of your life. Speaking of hours, it’s very surprising that the soundtrack album lasts for one, because Benjamin Wallfisch’s score is barely noticeable in the film at all, dialled down to ensure it has no impact, which is another oddity.

It opens with twinkly piano, a bit spooky and mysterious but lacking a satisfying melodic hook; then we’re straight into action in “The Beast” (the aforementioned tuna) which is rhythmic, propulsive, quite snarly. “Karen” brings in some old-fashioned string writing and while it still doesn’t have that hook, at least it is melodic, floating in and out of some lovely, ethereal new age chimes and vocals. This ethereal sound (albeit rarely as attractive as here) continues through the middle portion of the album but it’s surprisingly monochrome – shades of grey, not colour, with the exception of the beautiful vocals – with just brief bursts of action like “He Wants Justice”. My favourite part is the dramatic synths which appear at the end of “Plymouth Island” (as the truth is revealed). Admittedly the film didn’t give Wallfisch much to work with but even acknowledging that (and his understandable decision to focus on scoring the murky depths both literal and figurative, in the absence of any likeable characters or any warm relationships), I have to say it is a disappointment: he is such a talented composer whose recent elevation to far higher-profile films than this is well-deserved, but Serenity seems to struggle to find anything to say and I find that surprising. A theme or two wouldn’t have gone amiss. While the generally chilled-out atmosphere is quite soothing and pleasant, I’d have expected more – hopefully in his much more promising projects in the remainder of the year he finds something more interesting to write.

Rating: **

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