• by Wes Singleton

London Road, C+

Unrated, 91 minutes

One of the songs in the musical drama "London Road" proclaims: "everyone is very, very nervous...and very unsure of everything." The same could be said of the thought-provoking, well-acted musical that's based on the acclaimed National Theater production of the same name, which itself is based on real events of a serial killer, after all some musicals, especially dark ones like this, don't always translate well to screen, which could be said of "London Road." Similar to the popular "Rent," it plays better on stage than when opened up on the screen, where its themes feel a little watered down. It documents the events of 2006, when the quiet rural town of Ipswich was shattered by the discovery of the bodies of five women. When a local Ipswich resident named Steven Wright was charged and then convicted of the murders, the community grappled with what it meant to be at the epicenter of this tragedy. Most of those involved with the original 2011 National Theater production are present for the film version too: it's directed by National Theater director Rufus Norris and the screenplay by original creators and authors Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork, and original production actors Kate Fleetwood, Clare Burt, Michael Shaeffer, Paul Thornley, Hal Fowler and Nick Holder all appear here, along with new roles for popular British character actress Olivia Colman and recent Oscar nominee Tom Hardy, who in spite of his billing (he's by far the best known of the group) appears in just a couple of scenes. The play nor the movie shed much light into Wright's motivations with the killings, and is told from the viewpoint of how it affected the community of Ipswich and they are putting their lives together. Not exactly uplifting material, but the cast is game and there are a handful of powerful moments as the town struggles to put their lives back together again following the tragedy; while the "Les Miserables"-style musical conversations are usually great, the natural integration from stage to screen is an awkward one, and this is where it fails to really connect, losing some of its edge. Blink and you'll miss Hardy, who serviceably sings a line or two as a concerned taxi driver before quickly driving off. I liked the premise and the talented cast of "London Road," but for a more effective presentation, check it out on stage or at least the soundtrack.

#londonroad #tomhardy