Crowe has a Lill Moment
Whilst Russell Crowe may be better known for his budget movies such as "Gladiator" and "Robin Hood" some of his nicest work comes in smaller movies especially those before he hit the big time. Take "For the Moment" it is quite a low key romantic war drama set in Manitoba, Canada during the summer of 1942 and there is nothing essentially different about this movie which focuses on romance between those training to fight and the women whose loved ones are away fighting. But what makes it feel more than just another romantic war drama is some good acting from not just Russell Crowe but all the cast and director Aaron Kim Johnston who allows the issues of war time romance to present themselves in an easy to understand way.
Lachlan (Russell Crowe - American Gangster) is one of a group of young men sent to the training base near Manitoba, Canada during the summer of 1942 to train. Making friends with Johnny (Peter Outerbridge) who grew up nearby they go visit his sweetheart Kate (Sara McMillan) and her family including her married sister Lill (Christianne Hirt), whose husband is off fighting. But something happens as Lachlan and Lill feel something for each other, something which brings with it plenty of complications.
Now when "For the Moment" starts it all feels a bit cliche and for one ghastly moment I thought we were going to have some form of "Top Gun" rip off because we have Russell Crowe playing the cool, confident Lachlan a trainee pilot and there is a pretty woman called Lill. We also have Lachlan's buddy in Johnny who has his own beau and whilst we don't learn this immediately we also have Dipper, another trainee pilot who takes a dislike to Lachlan. It is all a bit cliche and as it builds up the various scenarios, introducing to various characters who will have some part to play further down the line you can predict a certain amount and you feel that maybe this will just be a pleasant but cliche romantic melo-drama.
But here is the thing whilst it doesn't take a genius to work out that whilst Lill is married, her husband is off at war, she will end up falling in love with Lachlan there is depth to all the romantic melo-drama. What I mean by that is that director Aaron Kim Johnston doesn't just serve up cliche he allows the emotions and motives to present themselves. And as such whilst Lill typically feels guilty about even thinking about getting close to Lachlan we understand that part of her needs to feel the emotion having not felt that love for a long time. This is built as their story unfolds and in one of the most touching scenes we learn all about Lill's emotional battle when an official car shows up with a telegram. It is such a well crafted scene it has us on the edge of our seats because in silence we see Lill break down having been handed the telegram but we don't know whether it is about her husband or her brother.
Running alongside this beautiful romantic drama we get subplots including Johnny's relationship with Lill's sister Kate as they plan to marry. There is also flying instructor Zeke who is in love with Betsy who with two children to feed has become a professional lady, offering a special service to the boys in training. All of which builds on the underlying theme of love during war and the hard choices that being in love brought with it. And every time Johnston allows the underlying emotion to present itself gradually rather than spoon feeding it to us.
It's not all about romance and there are a few minor moments of drama be it racism, suicide and homosexuality but these moments of drama sort of add to the realism of setting the scene rather than feeling like they have been thrown in to either surprise the audience or pad the movie out. In fact each of these minor moments are pivotal to bigger scenes later on be it when Lachlan comes across Dipper beating up a black pilot he also meets Zeke and they become close, so close Zeke asks Lachlan to do something for him he would have no other man do.
Now there are a few things which really bring "For the Moment" to life and the first of these are solid acting throughout especially from Russell Crowe. On one hand we have Crowe playing Lachlan as a bit of a typical Aussie charmer, confident, comical and with a glint in his eye but Crowe also delivers the underlying emotion, the heartbreak of having feelings when there is a good chance you will die. Crowe is matched by Christianne Hirt who plays Lill because she gets across the feeling of being attracted to Lachlan but also the emotional toll as she has to deal with being faithful and doing what her heart tells her. And Crowe and Hirt work well together delivering a simple tenderness to their relationship which is in many a scene simply beautiful.
Talking of beautiful director Aaron Kim Johnston has crafted a beautiful looking movie, from the wonderful locations, the skylines, the shots of planes flying low everything looks great, maybe a little too perfect at times but spot on for a romantic melo-drama. Add a very prominent and almost constant soundtrack which rises and falls as it tracks the emotion of the story and this is very much a movie for those who have love in their heart.
What this all boils down to is that whilst Russell Crowe maybe known for his power rolls in big movies what he brings to "For the Moment" is just as good whilst being more low key. But it is not just what Crowe brings to "For the Moment" which makes it so good but because behind all the cliche romantic war drama director Aaron Kim Johnston allows the emotion and heartbreak to come to the fore naturally rather than spoon feeding us everything.