The Theory of Flight (1998)

Helena Bonham Carter, Kenneth Branagh, Gemma Jones, Holly Aird,
Two miserable people find happiness together: a man dreaming of flying, and a woman dreaming of living.
  • 6.6 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Richard Hawkins, Writer:
  • Paul Greengrass, Director:
  • Ruth Caleb, Anant Singh, Helena Spring, Producer:

All subtitles:

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6 / 10

needs more and bigger laughs

Richard (Kenneth Branagh) is a dreamer who tries an unpowered flight off of a London building. He survives and is sentenced to community service. His girlfriend Julie is exasperated. He continues to build a home-made plane in a barn. He is given Jane Hatchard (Helena Bonham Carter) to care for. The wheelchair-bound sex-obsessed Jane suffers from Lou Gehrig's Disease. Her rebellious nature hides the fact that she's a virgin. Richard helps to find a gigolo for her.

This is set up for a pretty simple feel-good movie. It just needs more and bigger laughs. It relies mostly on Jane's virginity for the jokes. Also Jane's speech impediment prevents the jokes from getting the right timing. I also can't see finding a gigolo to be that difficult unless Richard is more awkward. If Richard is wackier, this movie could be more fun.

7 / 10

See it for Helena Bonham Carter.

Helena Bonham Carter is the center of this movie. She plays her role almost immobile in a wheelchair but still brings across her traditional intensity. Kenneth Branagh was tolerable. The movie itself was good not exceptional. If you are a Helena Bonham Carter fan it is worth seeing.

8 / 10

Intelligent melodrama

At the start, this one is from England, so, of course, I had 98 % chances that it will be intelligent and very good cinema. I never heard of this film before. From the minute I saw Helena Bonham-Carter, I said to myself : Oh! Here's comes the feminine version of My Left Foot. I was right, but I was also wrong. Wrong because the two movies are very differents. My Left Foot was a John Ford alike movie and this one is a Chaplin alike movie (not because this is funny, but Chaplin at that great sense of melodrama that brings tears to your eyes.) I was right because in 1990 handsome Daniel Day-Lewis turn a little bit ugly by playing an crippled person and he did it with a great sense of reality. Here, very beautiful Bonham-Carter did exactly the same thing, but with very feminine emotions. The story is well written and it's very intelligent. For me, miss Bonham-Carter gives one of the greatest woman's part of the 1990's, with Emily Lloyd in Breaking The Waves. Gee! And look at her eyes! She had the most beautiful eyes of cinema since Jobyna Ralston, Louise Brooks, Michele Morgan and Ava Gardner! She's also a true talent, as seen on many other movies. See this one, you won't regret it! And a very fine job by Branagh too!

7 / 10

Funny, Intelligent & Very Well Done

Kenneth Branagh is one of my favourite actors having seen some of his work in Dead Again & Mary Shelley's Frankenstein his performance was both clever and incredible. Helena Bonham Carter's portrayal of Jane a young woman dying from motor neurone disease was touching and heartfelt, you see the character go through the difficulty of the illness and sympathize with the situation.

When I saw this film I began to enjoy it after the first few minutes it was funny, heartbreaking and a little romantic. One of my favourite scenes was when Jane asked for help to lose her virginity, the expression on Richard's face was hilarious and yet stunned.

The Theory Of Flight is a charming story filled with enough comedy, drama and the right amount of romance to keep viewers entertained.

8 / 10

Pretty decent stuff, actually

Despite its low-key release in this country, and its apparent disregard in other countries (the 'R' rating in the States can't have helped - honestly, just because HBC uses the C-word!), this is actually a fine piece of work. The sentimentality does occasionally threaten to choke it, but it's overcome by the playing of the two leads.

It's easy to win plaudits just because you're playing a physical or mental cripple (Daniel Day-Lewis, Geoffrey Rush, Dustin Hoffman, etc.), and Helena Bonham-Carter may not quite capture the physical degradation of MND, but her vocal stretching and ruthless emotional drive compensate entirely. In fact, almost all her performance is conducted through her eyes (and what eyes!). This is an intelligent turn from an actress who is rapidly undoing her English Rose reputation, and emerging as a figure of some stature. Awards must surely follow, though not, alas, for this fine performance.

Branagh, one feels, has never quite given his best on film (except possibly 'Hamlet', and there his playing was diluted by the large cast). Here, though, he tops his other appearances, playing to the hilt a self-loathing, unstable, ultimately lovable guy with a subtlety he hasn't always displayed, and exhibiting both intelligence and depth. In short, we believe him, just as much as we could NOT believe him as Frankenstein, as the priest in 'The Proposition', as the lawyer in 'The Gingerbread Man', even as Andrew in 'Peter's Friends'. This is surely his finest performance yet - so why could he not produce the goods much earlier?

As a film, it looks more like a television offering, and without its stars it probably wouldn't amount to very much. But it's been a pleasure to see this pair perform their socks off like this, and I eagerly await more from them (though not 'Love's Labour's Lost'...). 8 out of 10, but Branagh and HBC get 10 out of 10.