Daniel Craig steps out of the tuxedo and turns up in a nostalgic and bittersweet drama about a fading Hollywood star. As the title suggests, we are also treated to a look back at his youth (although technically it's just one flashback) and although the structure of the film might be pretty straightforward, it's done with enough style and panache to keep it entertaining. The performances from the cast are also excellent and if the film doesn’t say a lot, it says enough.
A hard-partying British actor (Craig) is living a vacuous existence in Hollywood. When he receives a call out of the blue that his childhood best friend has suddenly died, he begins to re-evaluate his life. Struggling to keep up his public image and following some damaging news at a meeting with his agent, Joe wonders if he should go to the funeral. We then see a young Joe with his friends and family many years earlier in an idyllic seaside town. Joe is very much "coming of age" as are his friends, and he has his eye on local girl Ruth. However, a neighbouring older woman has her eye on Joe and things soon escalate.
The plot outline above might sound a bit vague; however, this is more to do with wanting too prevent too many spoilers rather than a limited story. Both sections of the film (present day and flashback) are handled with great attention to detail. The cold, isolated adult Joe is a world away from the young man we see later on in the film. We learn a lot about him as a person, although it is hard to see why he has made the choices he has based on what we see. This is not a film about someone looking back over mistakes or triumphs as one might have expected; indeed, it focuses almost entirely on one event and its subsequent consequences.
Music plays an important part in Walsh’s story, and the use of Roxy Music in one particular scene is up there with some of the classic sequences that Scorcese created in his 70s movies. Craig plays two very different characters on screen, from the cocky yet fragile actor to the grieving friend and nervous son. He is great in both capacities and while the rest of the performers in the present day scenes rarely amount to much more than extended cameos, he is matched stride for stride by the younger counterparts. A worthy and worthwhile experience, charged with a frisson of tension from the start.