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Hideous Kinky Review

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Marrakech 1972; scatty hippie Julia (Winslet) has fled a disappointing relationship and sad cold London, dragging her two little girls along on her quest for spiritual enlightenment and domestic freedom. Julia becomes ever more torn between her desire for self-actualisation and the ties of responsibility.

★★★★★

The popular appeal of Kate Winslet should boost the claims for attention of another beautifully observed work from Gillies MacKinnon, a slight but sweet adaptation of Esther Freud's semi-autobiographical novel. Liberated from the waist-clinching gowns and tragic, watery ordeals of her last four films, a glowing Winslet is delightful, presenting a warm, amusing, touchingly vulnerable and untogether but admirably brave character.

Poverty, the elusiveness of the imagined mystical fulfilment, cat fights with the exotic prostitute neighbours, disenchantment and a string of disasters make for a funny, sad and anxious odyssey in a slender, anecdotal tale. Julia's relationship with a charming Arab rogue, Bilal (Taghmaoui) adds sexual heat, charisma and, vitally, some dramatic backbone as his own story of woes and his increasingly dangerous efforts to help Julia and her daughters balances the girlish dynamic. The two child actors are real finds - enchanting, eccentric and natural, a good match for Winslet who barely looks old enough to have given birth to them.

Director MacKinnon nicely delineates the relationships and personalities while evoking a rich atmosphere from the colourfully seedy backdrops of Morocco and a trippy 70s soundtrack that includes Jefferson Airplane and Richie Havens. Culture clashes have seldom been more appealing.

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