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Director Fernando Mereilles has made two bona fide classics of contemporary cinema in The Constant Gardner and his breathtaking breakout City Of God.

His latest, though, a multi-stranded tale of life and its small-world surprises, fumbles for the visceral visuals and showboating storytelling of his best films and emerges a muddled minor work in a celebrated career.

Merielles has an all-star cast at his disposal to populate his globe-trotting tale of people enjoying and enduring life, each episode and each character connected.

Kicking off with a fresh-to-the-streets sex worker, who catches the eye of Law’s husband-away-on-business, Mereilles rolls through a procession that includes Hopkins’ weather-beaten, guilt-ridden father, en route to examine the remains of a woman who may be his estranged daughter; a Brazilian woman fleeing London; and Ben Foster’s stand-out turn as a newly released sex criminal, uneasy with a world of temptation in front of him.

Some strands are more affecting (Hopkins’ gravitas brings weight, despite limited means to work with), yet the coincidence with which writer Peter Morgan’s characters meet is more hokey and contrived than demonstrating any global-interconnectivity.

Mereilles’ flashy technique, the source of urgency and cinematic verve in previous projects – especially his technically beguiling last, Blindness – is also in short supply here.

The intent is noble, but the substance a little lacking, and the execution merely satisfactory when it could have been stunning.

Good for: A middle-of-the-road drama that misses the opportunity to be truly profound

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