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Film reviews: Love and Friendship and Alice Through the Looking Glass

Love and Friendship (U, 92 mins) Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) is concerned about the rumours that have begun to circulate about her relationship with smitten suitor Lord Manwaring (Lochlann O'Mearain). She seeks refuge with her late husband's family on their vast estate.

Charles Vernon (Justin Edwards) is blind to Lady Susan's capacity for mayhem, but his wife, Catherine (Emma Greenwell), is less trusting, especially when their house guest charms her handsome younger brother, Reginald (Xavier Samuel). Needless to say, Reginald's parents (James Fleet, Jemma Redgrave) are horrified by the prospect of their son fraternising with a minx. Complicating matters, Lady Susan must find a wealthy suitor for her daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark), and she resolves to force a love match with Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett).

Lady Susan's trusted confidante in tangled affairs of the heart is the equally unshockable Alicia Johnson (Chloe Sevigny), who has burdened herself with an older husband (Stephen Fry). As the scheming socialite's web of lies unravels, she must think quickly on her feet to maintain her standing with her cadre of ardent supporters.

Based on Jane Austen's novella Lady Susan, Love & Friendship is a rare tonic.

Alice Through the Looking Glass (PG, 113 mins)

In this sequel, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) has successfully buckled her swash as captain of her father's ship, The Wonder, but when she returns to dry land, the plucky heroine learns that her mother (Lindsay Duncan) has sold the deed to her embittered former suitor, Hamish Ascot (Leo Bill).

Defiant in the face of adversity, Alice takes a tumble through a mirror and plummets into Wonderland where she reunites with the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), Absolem the Caterpillar (voiced by Alan Rickman), The Dormouse (Barbara Windsor) and the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen). They reveal that the Mad Hatter (Depp) is in an emotional funk because he's convinced that his family, including his milliner father Zanik (Rhys Ifans), did not perish in the Jabberwocky's inferno. To set the Hatter's mind at rest, Alice agrees to steal a device called the Chronosphere from its guardian, Time (Sacha Baron Cohen).

"Do try not to break the past, present or future," advises The Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) as Alice slides back and forth through time to learn the startling truth. Alice Through The Looking Glass is a topsy-turvy jaunt too far for Lewis Carroll's iconic characters.

Damon Smith

Belfast Telegraph

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