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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Harry Wootliff
scr Molly Davies, Harry Wootliff
prd Tristan Goligher, Ruth Wilson, Ben Jackson, Jude Law
with Ruth Wilson, Tom Burke, Hayley Squires, Elizabeth Rider, Frank McCusker, Ann Firbank, Tom Weston-Jones, Nathan Ampofo, Michael Moreland, Charlie Heptinstall, Gledys Ibarra, Melissa Neal
release UK Oct.21 lff
21/UK BBC 1h42
VENICE FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
Like an indulgent autobiographical first film, this British drama is so insular that that it becomes increasingly difficult to identify with the characters. Director-cowriter Harry Woodliff is actually adapting a novel, which adds an odd sense of distance to the material. It looks gorgeous with its swirly cinematography and dreamy editing, and Ruth Wilson gives a tremendous central performance. But the pushy filmmaking leaves it feeling empty.
In Ramsgate, Kate (Wilson) works in a benefits office but doesn't take her job seriously. Her boss (Ampofo) is on her about missing work, while her friend and colleague Alison (Squires) tries to set her up with a nice guy (Weston-Jones) who's looking for a serious relationship. But Kate is more interested in a blond bad boy (Burke) who quickly seduces her and gets her into even more trouble with her boss, causing her life to spiral out of control. And even though this guy lets her down repeatedly, she keeps going back to him.
Woodliff keeps the film centred on Kate, who makes one awful decision after another. The script only vaguely deepens her character, suggesting that she's a talented artist who cares about her grandmother (Firbank) in a nursing home. Otherwise, she's irresponsible and rather annoyingly willing to be led off on a wasted night of drink and drugs, exploited by a guy she barely knows. It's clear from the start that he's not going to be good for her, and perhaps the film's point is that she only learns lessons the hard way.
Wilson dives fully into the role, creating a young woman who simply doesn't care about anything at all, willing to put her job, friendships and family connections at risk for no real reason. She's impossible to like, but Wilson has so much charisma in the role that she almost makes us root for her to finally see the light. Opposite her, Burke's character is wildly inconsistent, perhaps because he's depicted through Kate's eyes, veering from sexy and flirty to callous and indifferent.
This kind of flailing point of view makes the film impossible to engage with on a deeper level. The camerawork is solid enough to make it look great, and the use of real locations is strong as well. But without some resonance in the narrative, it becomes little more than an exercise in whiny self-expression, a depiction of the way people mess up their own lives and blame it on everyone else.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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