Gorgeous photography and an elusive storytelling style combine to make this dark dramatic thriller both gripping and rather frustrating. Without some understanding of the nature of honour killing in Britain, it will be difficult to make much sense out of the plot. But the atmospheric filmmaking helps make up for this, and it also covers over an uneven central performance.
The story opens in an isolated trailer park on the edge of a Yorkshire town, where young Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) is in hiding with her Scottish boyfriend Aaron (Connor McCarron). But as she quietly heads to work, there are several men on her trail. Laila's brother Zaheer (Ali Ahmad) is just back from Pakistan and is tracking her down with three friends, while her father (Wasim Zakir) has hired Tony (Gary Lewis) and his friend Barry (Barry Nunney) to find her. Clearly, her family wants her back, and Laila knows they're not planning to welcome her with open arms. So she and Aaron make a run for it.
Shot and edited in an observational style, directors Daniel and Matthew Wolfe don't make it very easy for the audience, never quite explaining what's happening and letting the actors speak in mumbled thick dialect. This makes it tricky to engage with any of the characters, especially the inexpressive Ahmed, who is better in the quiet scenes than she is when required to display emotion. She does capture a strong sense of desperation, as Laila is literally fighting for her life. It's clear that each character has his or her own story within the bigger narrative, but working these out sometimes feels like a chore, even with terrific actors on board like Lewis, Nichola Burley (as Laila's boss) and Kate Dickie (as Aaron's mum).
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Five guests arrive at the snowy, isolated Cliff Edge Hotel, perched high above a foreboding beach: Elly (Peake) is struggling to come to terms with a past tragedy, Glen (Hilton) is a has-been rocker in need of inspiration, Philip and Sophie (Dempsie and Burley) are on a blind-date weekend, and Wendy (Yates) intends to end it all. Chambermaid Agata (Wendzikowska) takes care of them for the weekend, which doesn't go as any of them planned. This is mainly because each person's isolation is interrupted in ways that will change their lives.
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Jerome is a Premiership footballer living the dream life: a fancy car, loads of money and a hot girlfriend; not to mention the luxury flat he lives in and vast opportunities for his career. It's a world away from the council estate and the grotty life he grew up with as a child.
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When the farmer Earnshaw (Hilton) brings a street urchin (Howson) home after a trip to Liverpool, he adopts him as a son and has him christened Heathcliff. He bonds quickly with Earnshaw's daughter Catherine (Beer), but her older brother Hindley (Shaw) continually abuses him. This only gets worse after Earnshaw's death, and when Cathy decides to marry the rich neighbour Linton (Northcote), Heathcliff runs away. Years later, he returns (now Howson) to confront Cathy (now Scodelario) about her true feelings.
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