Director: Roman Polanski

Cast:Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, John C Reilly, Christoph Waltz

Indian Express Ratings:***1/2

All of 'Carnage' takes place in a Brooklyn flat, where two sets of parents meet to sort out the results of a scuffle between their offspring. One boy has hit the other with a stick, and the damage has travelled from the playground to the tasteful living room of the Longstreets, Penelope (Foster) and Michael (Reilly), where the Cowans, Nancy (Winslet) and Alan (Waltz), have been invited for a chat. What is meant to be a brief interlude, at least on the parts of the much swisher and better-off Cowans, her in a classy power suit and ponytail and him with his ever-buzzing cellphone, deteriorates into a full-scale battle, the detritus of which they, and we, are left picking over much after the film is over.

Roman Polanski's major coup is not just in telling us such a universally resonant tale (parents fighting over their kids happens everywhere, not just in Brooklyn), but in gathering such a brilliant group of actors in a one space, and letting them loose at each other. You almost feel that the thing was written after the cast was locked in : the tightly-reined Foster who makes talking through her teeth a thing of long-felt, resentful hurt, the loosey-goosey Reilly who's just trying to keep his wife happy even if she won't, and can't, be, the clearly impatient Waltz who wants to get it over and done with in between attending to a series of calls, and Winslet who wants to keep everyone happy even as she lets go in a superb shot.

Yes, there are times when the film flags and turns upon itself : only Ingmar Bergman can keep the film-in-a-flat completely tight. But that's a function of four adults at cross-purposes, trying and failing to find common ground, in a confined space. The film is especially sharp when it turns the merciless spotlight, as it inevitably has to, on the couples, and their relationship. Long time marriages have gaps, and the partners have to learn to negotiate them, and keep them from tuning into black holes : ultimately, 'Carnage' throws us a redemptive shard , but also leaves us with things to think about.

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