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Esther Kahn Review

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A timid Jewish seamstress, Esther Kahn, lives and works in London in the 1900s, but dreams of a career onstage.

★★★★★

Based on a story by the critic-poet Arthur Symons, this is an earnest, but crushingly dull, tale of a Jewish seamstress who conquers the West End stage.

Never coming to terms with the idiom of Edwardian London, Arnaud Desplechin's English-language debut is further hampered by the charmless performance of Summer Phoenix. Eric Gautier's photography unfussily contrasts the theatre's gaudy glamour with drab backstreet reality, but potentially potent period themes are consigned to the wings.

With Ian Holm out of sorts as Esther's Svengali and Fabrice Desplechin unpersuasive as her intellectual lover, the oppressive sense of worthiness goes unrelieved, right down to her starring bow in Hedda Gabler.

Lacking both period detail and a charismatic lead, this is little more than a curiosity.