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Serena (9/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 109 minutes

Not for Children under 12.

Set in the late Ď20s Carolina (but shot in and around Prague, the Czech Republic three years ago, before its stars gained the A-list), this is an atmospheric romantic thriller with an A-list cast, extremely well-directed by Susanne Bier from a script by Christopher Kyle based on a book by Ron Rash.

George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper) is the head of a logging company in Carolina in partnership with Buchanan (David Dencik). When George meets Serena (Jennifer Lawrence) and impulsively marries her, itís clear that Buchanan had more of an interest in George than business.

In any event, this is a story that goes at its own pace down its own path and, like most thrillers, itís better not to know whatís going to happen. This is a first class film with pitched tension throughout. Adding to the quality are the supporting performances of Toby Jones as Sheriff McDowell, Rhys Ifans as Galloway, an ex-con mountain man who starts out as Georgeís tracker, but becomes more important as the movie progresses, and Ana Ularu as Rachel, the unwed mother of an infant.

Adding to the ambience is wonderful cinematography (Morton Soborg) and atmospheric music (Johan Soderqvist). Special mention must go to production designer Richard Bridgland who made Czechoslavakia look like a Carolina logging camp.

I donít like to write a lot about a movie I really thought good, so thatís all Iím going to say. This is a winner.