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Scarlett Johannson, Emily Beecham and Sienna Miller in “North Star.”


Kristin Scott Thomas has worked with enough master filmmakers in her career — Robert Redford, Anthony Minghella and Robert Altman among them — to have picked up some tricks along the way. Unfortunately, in her feature debut, “North Star,” she seems eager to deploy all of them at once: Combining animation, farce, family melodrama and much more besides, Thomas’ autobiographical tale of three sisters returning home for their mother’s third marriage is cluttered and tin-eared, unable to pivot effectively from grief to extramarital pegging to sibling recrimination and back again. On their own, our protagonists offer promise: There’s Georgina, a National Health Service nurse with a loathsome husband (Emily Beecham); Victoria, a narcissistic movie star with a French playboy pursuer (Sienna Miller); and Katherine, a pioneering naval captain with commitment issues (Scarlett Johannsson, with a distractingly undercooked English accent). All together, though, those individual foibles swamp the film’s most novel throughline, which is the remarkable coincidence that Thomas’ father and stepfather, both British navy pilots, died during their service only a few years apart. Indeed, the film’s one triumphant moment comes courtesy of Thomas the actor, with a graveside monologue in which the screen legend inhabits her own mother in order to take herself and her sisters down a notch: “I brought you up to be women,” she says, “not just to be daughters.” Would that Thomas the director had approached the material with such clear eyes. — M.B.

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