Save the Cinema review – Samantha Morton is Welsh town’s Hollywood heroine

Jonathan Pryce co-stars in this well-meaning but hammy retelling of the real-life fight to save Carmarthen’s local theatre

A well-meaning but hammy and perfunctorily sentimental heartwarmer in the familiar Britfilm style, inspired by the true story of Liz Evans, the dynamic founder of a youth theatre in Carmarthen whose productions were performed in an art deco theatre called the Lyric. She single-handedly saved it from demolition in the 90s, with her unflagging commitment to preserving it as a performance space, a movie theatre and a community resource.

Samantha Morton plays Liz; Jonathan Pryce plays a benevolent old teacher (favourite film: Goodbye Mr Chips) and Tom Felton is a kind-hearted postman. But the movie creates a gurning comedy evil mayor who is in cahoots with wicked developers, and this thankless and somewhat broad role is taken by Adeel Akhtar, who can do little or nothing with it.

I can’t help contrasting Save the Cinema with the recent film Dream Horse: also based on the inspiring true story of a Welsh community led by a gutsy local woman getting everyone together to fight back against adversity, in that case by buying a racehorse, and in fact Owen Teale has a part in both films. But that had a kind of passion and seriousness that Save the Cinema doesn’t and there is, for me, always something a little bit misjudged about appealing to sugary nostalgia in the cause of saving a cinema. Well, there is a nice tribute to John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley: a screening at the Lyric inspires everyone present to stand up and belt out Bread of Heaven. The sentiment is sound enough.

• Save the Cinema is released on 14 January in cinemas and on Sky Cinema.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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