Strawberry Fields

"Weak"

Strawberry Fields Review


Distraught drama and over-egged performances give this film a self-indulgent tone. Aside from the first-rate cinematography and editing, it's so disappointingly arch that we struggle to believe anything, even as it touches on important themes.

Gillian (Madeley) is running away from home when she gets the idea to work picking strawberries, pretending to be "Tammy" from Scarborough. Her new boss is Kev (Elliott), a lusty man with a mysterious past who takes an interest in her. Then her sister Emily (Bottomley) storms onto the farm. Clearly, the deeply unstable Emily has been controlling Gillian's life for a long time, and now that their mother has died, Gillian wants to do her own thing. But can she escape Emily's manipulative grasp?

The improvised approach allows the cast to create characters within a loose narrative. Filmmaker Lea is telling the story in a freeform style, straying from the demands of movie structure. Sometimes this is interesting because it confounds our expectations and catches us off guard with moments of warmth and darkly unsettling drama. And it also lets the film drift occasionally toward a horror film, with nasty encounters that flare up seemingly out of nowhere.

The problem is that nothing rings true to life. Every reaction is almost insanely exaggerated, making us wonder early on if these sisters are clinically schizophrenic. The only realistic person is Kev, played with darkly alluring charm by Elliott, but the character is betrayed by the script, which hangs him out to dry before a half-hearted epilogue. In fact, between him and his coworker Fabio (Bonnici), who has an unnatural loyalty to Emily, the film feels like it was written by someone who hates men.

Aside from wallowing in each character's violent tendencies, Lea lets her cast overplay every scene. Madeley and Bottomley are gifted actors, but they're coaxed to play Gillian and Emily in far-too-obvious ways, with constant hints at mental instability, goofy mannerisms and sudden personality changes. This is the kind of thing that alienates viewers from small, offbeat movies. And while Lea touches on important issues such as family pressures, romantic manipulation and the deep yearning for independence, she shouts everything far too loudly for it to have any impact.



Strawberry Fields

Facts and Figures

Run time: 87 mins

In Theaters: Friday 6th July 2012

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

IMDB: 4.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Frances Lea

Producer: Liam Beatty, Lucie Wenigerova

Starring: as Kev, Anna Madeley as Gillian, as Emily, Philip Martin Brown as Bob

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