Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5

dir-scr Cathy Brady
prd David Collins, Carlo Cresto-Dina, Charles Steel
with Nora-Jane Noone, Nika McGuigan, Kate Dickie, Martin McCann, Helen Behan, Aiste Gramantaite, Amanda Hurwitz, David Pearse, Peter Ballance, Joanne Crawford, Damien Hannaway, Rozlyn Sheridan
release UK Oct.20 lff
20/UK BFI 1h25

noone dickie mccann
london film fest

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mcguigan and noone
Almost terrifyingly current, this drama set in Northern Ireland tells a story set against the fragile peace that has held since the 1998 Good Friday agreement, which the UK government is currently violating with its Brexit plans. The tone of this film is very gloomy, which matches the grim themes. But because it's so relentlessly bleak, writer-director Cathy Brady never achieves the catharsis the story seems to be seeking.
After going missing, Kelly (McGuigan) suddenly turns up at the home of her sister Lauren (Noone), sparking an awkward reunion. Living right on the border between the UK and the Irish republic, they're able to rekindle their close connection, and soon begin talking about their late mother's death in a car crash, which neighbours still talk about. Meanwhile, Aunt Veronica (Dickie) and Lauren's husband Sean (McCann) are unsettled that Kelly is digging up old wounds. And as everyone pushes in on them from all sides, Lauren and Kelly need each other to get through this.
The melodrama in this film is seriously intense on a variety of fronts, as Lauren finds herself distracted at work when her colleagues gossip about Kelly, jeopardising her job in a distribution warehouse. And Sean begins worrying about both Lauren's fragile mental state and Kelly's mercurial instability. Intriguingly, the sisters seem to grow closer even as they disappear down a rabbit hole of their past trauma, coming to terms with the fact that their mother probably committed suicide. But their biggest question is whether she loved them.

Performances match this wrenching tone, and are compellingly emotional. Noone and McGuigan both dive fully into their roles as desperately troubled young women grappling with their inner demons. Indeed, they bring these things out in each other, forcing a confrontation. And facing up to the fragments of their memories is going to be difficult. Where the plot pushes them is full-on, and the script contains very few moments of lightness. And there isn't much relief in the small side roles either.

While the dark intensity in this film feels overwhelming, there isn't much in the story to grab hold of, so it becomes a flood of feelings without much substance beyond the parable at its core. Lauren and Kelly seem so fraught most of the time that it's not easy to identify with them, because their pain is so blinding that they can't see anything else. The emotions are compelling, but aside from the importance of family, there isn't much to take away.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 10.Oct.20 lff

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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall