Wonderland Review

Jul 27, 2000 | 8:00pm EDT

Several intertwined plot strands revolve around three sisters struggling with affairs of the heart in middle-class London over the span of a single weekend. Lonely waitress Nadia (Gina McKee) devotedly follows up on personals ads but can't seem to find a decent bloke. Expecting mother Molly (Canada's Molly Parker) gets a shock when her motorscooter messenger husband (John Simm) doesn't come back from work one night. Oversexed hairdresser Debbie (Shirley Henderson) locks horns with her irresponsible ex (Ian Hart) over the care of their young son (Peter Marfleet).

Laurence Coriat's actor-friendly screenplay provides juicy fodder for the talented ensemble cast. McKee ("Croupier") is touching as an attractive sensitive woman who has been passed over in the romance department. Hart ("Backbeat") does his patented sarcastic wanker routine as the guy who can't do anything right. Kika Markham and Jack Shepherd paint a memorably bleak portrait of loveless marriage as the sisters' profoundly unhappy parents.

Heavy-drama helmer Winterbottom ("Welcome to Sarajevo") shot this intimate character piece with a handheld 16mm camera in real locations and the effect can be riveting in the manner of Denmark's influential Dogme films. Winterbottom navigates the challenging multistory format successfully for the most part though there are some dead spots -- minor plot strands about an estranged brother and a withdrawn young neighbor who pines for Nadia seem pointlessly tacked on. Juxtaposed interestingly against the everyday urban imagery Michael Nyman's orchestral score lends the piece a sweeping operatic quality though the effect can be over the top at times.

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