Matteo Garrone is proving himself to be an eclectic director: his Mafia crime story Gomorrah had little in common with his 2012 Big Brother drama Reality, which has no similarities to his latest, the fairy-tale-for-adults Tale of Tales. But this time out everything is a bit flat and uninvolving.
ased on Giambattista Basile's collection of 17th century tales, three stories intertwine somewhat in Garrone's first English language outing. Salma Hayek is Queen of Longtrellis who longs for a child. A necromancer tells her that if she eats the heart of a sea monster, cooked by a virgin, she will give birth that very night. However, the virgin also gives birth and the two 'twins' (Christian and Jonah Lees) grow up to be best friends with the Queen doing her best to keep the boys apart. Meanwhile Vincent Cassel is the randy King of Strongcliff, who falls in love with an old crone (Hayley Carmichael). When she is magically rejuvenated to her younger self (Stacey Martin), her lonely sister Shirley Henderson attempts to do the same with disastrous results. Toby Jones is the King of Highhills who marries off his daughter (Bebe Cave) to an ogre (Guillaume Delaunay) as he secretly raises a giant insect…

n odd one to say the least, Garrone instils his film with a vibe that's hard to pin down – it's part fantasy, part comedy, part horror. There are sad moments and thrilling moments. It seems unsure of itself and the stop-start nature of the opening act, as Garrone goes about setting up the various kingdoms and characters, make the proceedings come across a little disjointed and try as he might Garrone can't make the stories link like they should. The pace is plodding, the characters thin and the sparse dialogue, when used, is dry.
ut Tale of Tales has something. It’s unpredictable - perhaps Garone is after a fairy tale to confuse and repulse and entice an adult, just like a child might be upon hearing Little Red Riding or Hansel and Gretel. It's pretty to look at with Garrone seeking out impressive rooms and breath-taking exteriors to shoot his scenes. There's a sense of childlike wonder with strange castles perched precariously on hills and there are some scenarios will stick in the memory: Reilly's underwater battle with the sea creature; Hayek's bloody face as she chows down on a giant heart; a half-mad Henderson stumbling through the streets with flayed skin; Jones feeding his pet flea).
hile it’s difficult to get involved with the goings on there might be enough violence, prettiness and weirdness to keep interests stoked before the end credits eventually roll round.