Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 10/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"AKA is an Art Film in every sense of the word. The script by Director Duncan Roy is autobiographical and extremely well written. According to the film, Dean Page (in a phenomenally sensitive portrayal by Matthew Leitch who appeared in 'Band of Brothers') is the only child of an abusive father (the abuse includes sexual abuse) and a mother who is a waitress in a classy eatery populated by the upper crust of British society - a class she longs to know intimately. The abuse finally comes to a head and Dean leaves home only to be befriended by a lonely elderly gay man who introduces him to friends who for the first time make Dean feel 'acceptable'. Dean longs to have the privilege and money of the upper class and he sets about to imitate and eventually create a persona as the son of Lady Gryffoyn (Diana Quick in her usual fine stylish performance standard), another person who has befriended him. Assuming the 'role' of Alexander Gryffoyn, Dean uses a credit card to gain meals, clothes, and all the trimmings of a forged identity. He is unable to engage in relationships with either male or female, as his memory of his father's abuse always remains a demon. Eventually he encounters a young lad Benjamin (Peter Youngblood Hills, also from the 'Band of Brothers' cast), is attracted to his way of life, and when Dean moves from London to Paris to keep ahead of the law, he finds Benjamin there with his latest consort David (George Asprey) and the three become a 'triptych'. Eventually Dean's hoax is discovered but not before he has thoroughly lost his ungainly accent, learned the manners and methods of the gentrified British class, and is able to fool everyone but himself. How the fall of this facade plays out is the beauty of the story, and that ending includes many very poignant insights into parenting, into British class systems, and into the subject of sexuality. The cast is uniformly excellent (cameos include a blind 'Uncle" played by Bill Nighy!) and the photography is beautiful. And that is where the Double Pleasure comes in. This film was shot in both full screen single camera focus and in a beautifully realized Triptych form: in the later there are always three film frames of each scene allowing the viewer varied vantages and moments of emphasis that only grow more pertinent as the film's story is known. The story and cast and directing are so strong that I chose to watch the film first in the single screen format to see the story. Then watching it in the Triptych format is ever so much more meaningful. This is not only a very good film, it is an excellent example of how cinema can move bravely into the complete art arena. Highly recommended on every level."
Dennis! | Washington, DC USA | 09/28/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is very well done, exceeding my expectations for it. The core talent is wonderful and the plot line pretty compelling.
Dean, going on 18, has, it's safe to say, a terrible home life. His mother works as a waitress to the elite and fancies herself their friend, so she brings home stories to Dean about her relationships with the rich and powerful. His stepfather is abusive, and not just verbally. Yet when his stepfather orders him out of the house, his mother inexplicably refuses to stand up for him, leading Dean to make his way on his own.
Dean manages to find a job with one of the elite whom his mother serves, granting him access to the inner life of the rich and fabulous. Unfortunately, Dean soon meets with snobbery and elitism and is again booted from the ranks of the rich.
Emboldened by a stranger, Dean makes his way to Paris, where, on a lark, he identifies himself as the son of the very person he used to work for. This opens all kinds of doors for him and grants in the life he always wishes that he had.
Dean's journey is remarkable for a number of reasons. First, the fact that Dean is living a constant lie makes most of his relationships a challenge. As importantly, he must start coming into his own sexual identity, a process made none too easy by his stepfather.
In the end, this story appears to amount to Dean's ongoing attempt to find love, in whatever form it may exist. His home life, unfortunately, has not served as a very positive lesson in what it means to love another person. By the same token, though, his newfound friends and lovers also teach him -- the hard way -- about the meaning of giving yourself to another.
By the time the movie ends, Dean still probably hasn't reached an effective and conclusive resolution to his issues, nor has he completely exorcised his demons. But the journey of his young adulthood is fascinating to watch.
Some extra notes: the "normal" version of this film is the default play on the DVD. However, the movie is truly best experienced watching the triptych version (an ongoing triple split screen). It's a powerful and fascinating style.
One complaint: there are no subtitles on this DVD. Sometimes, when the actors voices were too low, in conjunction with their British accents, I simply couldn't understand what they were saying.
Also, the extended commentary track of the DVD contains and running monologue from Duncan Roy, director and producer, upon whose life the story is loosely based. At times, the commentary is fascinating, just because you come to realize that what Dean goes through in the film is what this man went through himself, to a degree. At the same time, however, many times his comments fail to match up with the action on the screen and so it feels like he's somewhat blathering on apropos of nothing.
All in all, a very well done movie."
A good film with a good storyline
T. Hulse | 10/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Based on a true story of Dean Page. The production quality and audio was good. The acting was good and the main players, believable. The story is of Dean who hates his middle class life and sexually abusive Father. Dean wants to be a nobleman so he steals the identity of a nobleman and assumes his life. Sadly Dean can not afford the cost of being rich and not only limits out his credit card but commits credit fraud to keep up the lie. The only negitive thing about the entire film was Dean's English accent is so heavy that on occation it's hard to understand what he said. The film is a good investment. It has a few racey intimate scene's and one frontal nude shot, although quick it may be best for those over 18. Those who have suffered sexual abuse by an authority figure may be very effected by the film."
Artful and true
M. FUSCO | NEW YORK, NY | 01/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"AKA is writer/director Duncan Roy's thought-provoking memoir of his own youth. He escaped from a brutal, sexually abusive working-class household by assuming the identity of a young aristocrat and became famous - or notorious, rather - in the process.
Mr. Roy's movie is brilliantly written, directed, and cast. Matthew Leitch is perfect as Dean, the handsome, sweet, innocently seductive young man who desperately wants a better -- or, to be more precise, another -- life. His intelligence, looks, charm, and manner make people want to believe he is who he says. All the actors are notable and entertaining. Two are exceptional: Diana Quick as the prickly patrician Lady Gryffoyn, whose son Dean impersonates; and George Asprey as the striking, urbane, gay aristocrat who takes Dean under his wing. Heir to the Asprey fortune in real life, he was born for the part.
Aside from the fascinating story, imaginative photography done solely with available light, and perfect musical support, AKA is a scathing portrayal of the English class system, where aristocrats rely on certain cues (accent, pronunciation, name, manners, schooling, demeanor) to identify one another and preserve their exclusivity. Dean lives as 'one of them' successfully and happily for over a year. After which he says, quite truthfully (if Mr. Roy's portrait of Alexander Gryffoyn is in any way accurate in its mean-spirited snobbery), that he was a better Lord Gryffoyn than the real one could ever be. Mr. Roy also depicts a working class equally complicit in maintaining 'place' and limited social mobility.
After watching the single screen version, the three-screen triptych version, as it was released theatrically, is an interesting complement which adds dimension to the story. Mr. Roy's commentary track is illuminating politically, and enlightening cinematically. His film is a very personal work of art. The entire ensemble is outstanding, but the talent and beauty of Matthew Leitch form the solid core on which the story rests."
GEORGE RANNIE | DENVER, COLORADO United States | 09/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are looking for a movie that has a "Cinderella-like" theme and ending (poor mistreated loveable, unhappy working-class waif passes him/herself off as being one of the very rich, powerful and influential which are in turn portrayed as strange, mean and cold-hearted but in reality they are actually very nice with hearts of gold and even though they've been deceived by this waif of a person, they eventually accept the poor little creature in as one of their own with all living happily thereafter) this is NOT the movie for you! Set in the late 1970's, this film is a scathing portrayal of especially the so-called upper crust--be advised that the working class don't come off too well either. This is NOT light entertainment; it is a very challenging movie that will not leave you with a "Walt Disney production type" of warm feeling. Nevertheless, the acting is truly outstanding with Mathew Leitch and Diana Quick giving (to me) Oscar worthy performances. In fact all of the actors, in this film, are outstanding. The characters might not elicit much sympathy; however, they are nothing short of fascinating with the actors being so good at their skill they will have you on the edge of your seat, believe me. But there is a lot more to this film. The sound tract is gorgeous being of music from the era (better pop-music than I can remember from the 1970's). The cinematography is wonderful with the 3-screen format being a challenge but one that is worth taking (a regular single screen format is available and it is wonderful too)-The three screen format allows one to see three settings of the action simultaneously-wonderful! The best way that I can describe it is that it is like being in the center of a room at a party and standing very still (with no one being able too observe you) with you being able to eavesdrop on the goings on from several different angles.
If you are into movies that make you think and feel, buy this film "