The Austin Chronicle

Cape of Good Hope

Rated PG-13, 107 min. Directed by Mark Bamford. Starring Debbie Brown, Eriq Ebouaney, Nthati Moshesh, Morne Visser, Quanita Adams, David Isaacs, Kamo Masilo.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Dec. 16, 2005

This simple South African film about a multicultural group of employees at a Cape Town animal shelter who aptly find both goodness and hope in their troubled lives has a sweet bent to it. It’s not a terribly sophisticated movie, but it might leave you feeling positive about the human race, at least for a while. The principal character in the film is Kate (Brown), a commitment-phobic young woman who relates to the dogs in her shelter better than she does to men. On the surface, Kate seems to prefer to have an affair with a married man and spend stolen hours in cheap motel rooms, rather than open her eyes to the prospect of a handsome, widowed veterinarian who’s clearly attracted to her. (As the shy animal doctor, Visser is a near dead ringer for Russell Crowe.) The armchair psychology used to explain Kate’s propensity for making poor choices in lovers, however, is best ignored in favor of simply accepting her character’s faults on their face. In fact, there is much in Cape of Good Hope that is best taken at face value rather than for anything else. Given the film’s setting, the ghost of apartheid lingers and informs two of its storylines, one involving a Congolese refugee with a doctorate degree in astronomy and the other involving the beautiful young mother who catches his eye. The relationship between Jean Claude and Lindiwe is definitely the highlight of the film, capturing the pureness and intensity of two people falling in love. While the actors in Cape of Good Hope turn in good performances, they often make choices that beg the need for a stronger director. And while Bamford does a serviceable job in keeping your attention, you’re still left with the impression that his directorial vision doesn’t realize the full potential of the material. Still, despite its shortcomings, Cape of Good Hope is a hopeful piece of humanism that is difficult to begrudge too much.

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