Stylish and moody, this twisty dramatic thriller gets under our skin with its mysterious tone and darkly insinuating performances. But the script is badly underwritten, never quite connecting the dots between what happens on screen. Several of the events are frankly unbelievable, which is made more frustrating by characters who continually do things that don't make logical sense. So we end up struggling to see the point of it all.
Everything happens in the wake of a massive explosion at a holiday house in the south of France. Micky (Middleton) wakes up with amnesia, having had her face rebuilt by surgeons. But her childhood best pal Domenica (Roach in flashbacks) died in the fire, leaving a huge hole in her life. Her guardian (Kerry Fox) tries to help her return to her daily routine, but she's obsessed with piecing together the nagging puzzle about what happened. And she doesn't really want to be the person she apparently was before the accident. Her old boyfriend Jake (Bernard) is some help, but the more she learns about her former life, the more she wonders who she really is.
The insinuation from the very start is that Micky and Do may have swapped identities in the accident, which seems rather ridiculous since they aren't the same height. Reconstructive surgery can't overcome that, and their different coloured hair would become obvious pretty quickly. So every time writer-director Softley tries to drop a hint or throw us off the trail, we feel like we're being had. At least he maintains a terrific sense of film noir creepiness, with lush visuals and scenes that draw us in to make us wonder what will happen next. And there is the tantalising possibility that the swap is psychological.
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While this strikingly well-made film is a great calling card for rising-star filmmaker Norris, it's also so relentlessly dark and unsettling that it's difficult to see the point of it all. This is such a bleak coming-of-age tale that it almost obscures any hope at all, focussing a series of horrific incidents into a confined space that gives the actors and filmmaker a change to shine, but leaves the audience exhausted.
It's set in a North London cul-de-sac, where the pre-teen Skunk (Laurence) lives with her big brother Jed (Milner), her single dad (Roth) and her nanny Kasia (Marjanovic). But her happy life is thrown into chaos when violence erupts: hotheaded widower Bob (Kinnear) storms across the street and punches simple-minded Rick (Emms), seemingly for no reason, triggering a series of events that Skunk struggles to understand. And Bob's three daughters seem to be just as violent. One (Bryant) is mercilessly bullying Skunk at school, while another (Daveney) is seducing Jed.
The way so many story elements circle around Skunk makes the film feel almost like a stage play. Everyone is so interconnected that we wonder if much of this exists only in her mind. For example, Kasia has just started a relationship with Skunk's schoolteacher (Murphy), who has been accused of abusing one of Bob's daughters. And there are even more issues that put Skunk in both emotional and physical peril, including a new boyfriend (Sergeant) who might have to move away and the fact that she has Type 1 diabetes. And Skunk's world seems to be limited to her street and a junkyard across the field.
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