blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Paper Mask (1990, Christopher Morahan)

Amanda Donohoe and Paul McGann star in PAPER MASK, directed by Christopher Morahan for Enterprise Pictures Limited.

Until the third act, when it painfully changes course, Paper Mask is excellent. Hospital employee—it’s never clear his exact position—Paul McGann assumes the identity of his ex-girlfriend’s dead doctor boyfriend and heads off to practice medicine. The events don’t unfold as simply as that sentence suggests, but the process McGann goes through is what makes so much of Paper Mask excellent.

McGann’s performance (until the third act, when it becomes clear the film isn’t happy with the character’s arc unfolding naturally) is outstanding. It helps he has Amanda Donohoe as a love interest. Donohoe’s excellent in the film, grounding it. She disappears briefly and the whole thing falls apart.

What starts as a somewhat genre-less film—it’s got comedy, drama, mystery—ends as a completely traditional thriller. Well, maybe not completely traditional, but far more in common with the dangerous impersonator thriller than it should.

If I’ve given anything away, I can’t quite apologize because the film ends so pointlessly, there’s not really much reason to watch it as a drama. The acting is excellent and is worth a look (especially for Donohoe, who I think went on to Sci-Fi Channel movies).

Also, director Morahan is outstanding. He manages to keep the filmmaking quality high until the very last shot, which is when Richard Harvey’s otherwise good score sputters out too.

Great supporting turns from Barbara Leigh-Hunt and Frederick Treves… and a mediocre one from Tom Wilkinson.

Paper Mask is competent, but fatally unimaginative.



Produced and directed by Christopher Morahan; screenplay by John Collee, based on his novel; director of photography, Nat Crosby; edited by Peter Coulson; music by Richard Harvey; production designer, Caroline Hanania; released by Enterprise Pictures Limited.

Starring Paul McGann (Matthew Harris), Amanda Donohoe (Christine Taylor), Frederick Treves (Dr. Mumford), Tom Wilkinson (Dr. Thorn), Barbara Leigh-Hunt (Celia Mumford), Jimmy Yuill (Alec Moran), Mark Lewis Jones (Dr. Lloyd), John Warnaby (Dr. Hammond), Alexandra Mathie (Beverley) and Oliver Ford Davies (Coroner).


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