PUFFBALL (Nicolas Roeg). 120 minutes. Opens Friday (September 28). Rating: NNN
Director Nicolas Roeg , now 79, has been away a long time. This is his first feature-sized film work since his Samson And Delilah miniseries in 96, his first theatrical release since Two Deaths in 95.
As someone who loves Roeg's films from 1970 to the mid-80s, from Performance to Castaway (not the Tom Hanks one), I was hoping for a late-career return to form. And if Puffball isn't that, it is an eminently watchable little thriller with occult overtones and a terrifying performance by Miranda Richardson as a farm woman.
She wants a fourth child even though her doctor tells her she's too old, so she fastens on pregnant Liffey ( Kelly Reilly ), a young architect building a house down the road from their farm. Oh, and Miranda's mom ( Rita Tushingham ) is a witch.
Based on Fay Weldon 's novel, the film demonstrates Roeg's mastery of atmosphere and dread, keeping us intensely involved even when nothing particularly scary is happening. There's a voyeuristic feel to the camera work, even though that's not part of the story. Somehow, Roeg keeps us thinking we're seeing things we shouldn't.
Puffball really could have used another pass through screenwriter Dan Weldon 's word processor -- you think it's over, but then there's another 20 minutes to go -- or another session with the editor.
At least now Roeg's final credit in the IMDB won't be The Sound Of Claudia Schiffer.