dir David Blair
scr Roger Hadfield
prd Michael Knowles, Terry Stone, Richard Turner
with Timothy Spall, Juno Temple, Hayley Squires, Matt Ryan, Susan Lynch, Joanna Roth, Reece Noi, Terry Stone, Tony Pitts, Melanie Clare, Jack North, James Varley
release UK 12.May.17
16/UK 1h45
Odd couple: Spall and Temple

squires ryan lynch
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Away Moody and introspective, this low-key British thriller has more than a little whiff of TV melodrama about it. The film is a sharply observed study of two people at a point of vulnerability, and the astute performances are more than enough to hold the attention, even when the plot's more suspenseful twists struggle to maintain a grip on the audience.

Escaping her violent boyfriend Dex (Ryan), Ria (Temple) takes a train to Blackpool, where she meets Joseph (Spall), a shell of a man who's certainly not happy that she has latched on to him. Ria has a plan to help her and her sister Kaz (Squires) escape Dex's clutches. But Ria has stolen a bag of drugs from Dex, and now he's on her trail. So while Joseph has no interest in getting involved, he may be the only hope she has. And maybe she can help him find a reason to go on living.

This story is expanded with flashbacks that reveal Ria's and Joseph's rather desperate, lonely back-stories. The constant cross-cutting is tricky to follow, although it does layer in telling details and emotional subtext. So even if it's all rather choppy, these scenes add intrigue to the essentially simplistic plot. Most importantly, they reveal Joseph's debilitating grief over the death of his wife (Roth), while also exploring Ria's complex connection to both Dex and Kaz. Although they muddle her link to Joseph.

In another fully committed performance, Spall brings an unnervingly shattered quality to the curmudgeonly Joseph, a man who seems to far beyond the end of his rope. This not only sheds light on the character but also adds spark to his prickly chemistry with Temple, who makes Ria rather bright-eyed and naively impetuous. Both characters are deep thinkers, with Ria's hopefulness intriguingly balancing out Joseph's pessimism. Squires and Ryan add terrific energy in key roles, as do smaller side-players like Lynch and Roth.

The settings are beautifully shot, especially the expansive beauty of the seaside in contrast to the grubby flats and hotel rooms. This striking imagery and the excellent acting make up for the fragmented structure and overly tidy narrative. Thankfully, there are powerfully emotional scenes all the way through the film, including a couple of heart-stopping moments. But once the events begin to come into focus, there's a nagging suspicion that the final act will require rather a lot of cliches if it hopes to reach any sort of resolution.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 2.May.17

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