R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Marc Evans
scr Richard Smith
with Colin Firth, Mena Suvari, Naomie Harris, Kenneth Cranham Brenda Fricker, Tommy Flanagan, Sean Harris, Garry Tubbs
release US 19.Jan.04 Sundance, UK 17.Sep.04
04/UK 1h34

"Some people know stuff they shouldn't know": Suvari and Firth

firth suvari fricker
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Trauma There's an eerie creepiness about this psychological thriller that really gets into your head, thanks to extremely intriguing direction from Evans (My Little Eye) and a strong central performance by Firth.

When Ben (Firth) wakes from a coma he only has fragmented memories of the car crash that put him in the hospital and killed his wife (Naomie Harris). Completely shattered, he tries to put his life back together with the help of his pal Tommy (Flanagan) and an all-new flat with a friendly neighbour (Suvari) and a helpful handyman (Sean Harris) lurking downstairs. Then a psychic (Fricker) tells him his wife is alive, and in his stunned confusion, he mixes his wife's death with the murder of a local pop star, thinking maybe he did it.

This is a closely focussed film about a man who simply has lost the ability to separate reality from dreams and nightmares. And Firth is very good as a guy haunted by his entire life--past and present--trying desperately to make the right decisions, but frankly ill-equipped for the task. Especially as various truths begin to dawn here and there around him. It certainly keep us on our toes! And since we see everything through Ben's foggy eyes, the surrounding characters are all fascinatingly unsteady, seeming to shift between friends and foes with each new bit of information.

With such a limited and untrustworthy point of view, the film is reminiscent of Memento, although without that film's emotional depth and bracing originality. It touches on issues such as survivors' guilt, denial and celebrity stalking, but without really exploring them emotionally. Ben is a strangely cool figure, with odd habits (like his massive ant farm) and extremely awkward relationships with those around him. This makes it hard for us to feel very strongly about him, which in turn leaves the film feeling a bit slim. Fortunately, Evans fills the screen with such moody, atmospheric, evocative visuals that we're still gripped, especially as the plot twists start flowing.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 16.Jun.04

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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall