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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir-scr Eleanor Yule
with Peter Mullan, Jodhi May, Anders W Berthelsen, Phyllida Law, Samantha Bond, Ralph Raich, Kenny Ireland, Kate Donnolly, Jan Wilson
release UK 30.Sep.05
Forbidden romance: May and Berthelsen
This is the kind of film you admire rather than like--a murky, muddy drama that probes into the dark recesses of the soul. Yule shows considerable skill as a director, although it's all a bit over-constructed.
Mike (Berthelsen) is hitchhiking through Scotland when he's picked up by a friendly doctor (Bond), who thinks a local farm might offer him work and lodging. Sure enough, blind farm owner Francis (Mullan) needs help. Alas, Francis' young wife Rachel (May) takes a shine to Mike. Francis may not be able to see, but he clearly knows the plot of Double Indemnity, as he becomes increasingly convinced that Mike is going to steal both Rachel and the farm.
Yule creates an enticingly moody atmosphere right from the start. The damp, gloomy setting establishes a foreboding tone that grows as Francis works himself into a lather of jealousy and suspicion. As do the other characters. The actors have plenty to sink their teeth into--the script gurgles with suppressed (or not-so-suppressed) passions and bitterness. Nobody can see, as it were, beyond the lies in and around them. Mullan rages brilliantly; May looks on in wide-eyed, possibly imagined horror; Mike tries to sort the truth from the lies in his own secretive past, let alone the present; even Law gets in on the fun, as Francis' angst-ridden mother.
Yes, it's quite heavy, with little real-life humour to lighten the load. And the story gets increasingly complex and internalised--and gruesome. Heavy symbolism fills the story, from the bottomless blackness of the mud pit to Mike's glaring white flashbacks to the sudden burst of cheery daffodils. And the plot itself is equally suggestive, especially when it takes a startling, unnecessarily symmetrical turn in the end.
But along the way, Yule manages to send chills down our spines with some clever ghostly sequences, as well as the Hitchcock-style tale of a not-so-innocent man caught up in events beyond his control. On the other hand, Yule seems to see this as a particularly challenging love story. But there's just not enough believable passion between Mike and Rachel to propel the dramatic intensity. And in the end, despite the style and depth, it feels somewhat pointless.
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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