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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Okwe (newcomer Chiwetel Ejiofor) works as a cab driver by day and a hotel desk clerk by night, regularly chewing addictive plant leaves to keep himself from dozing off. An illegal immigrant and former doctor who's arrived in London to flee political forces who sought his arrest in Nigeria, Okwe now resides on the couch of fellow hotel employee Senay (Amelie's Audrey Tautou), a Turkish maid whose legal immigrant status, in a puzzling twist that's never fully explained, prohibits her from being employed. The two social outcasts keep their friendship hidden from their fellow coworkers, each interested in blending into the environment like a chameleon changing spots to elude predators. In a city that eagerly makes use of immigrant labor, Okwe and Senay are the tattered fringe of society, forced to endure humiliation and unable to fight back for fear that their presence might be detected by the immigration police who constantly scour the city's underbelly. What's not mentioned, however, is that since Okwe is an illegal immigrant, he doesn't have any right being in London, and this near-sighted portrayal of his situation - one can assume that his life in London, no matter how difficult and unpleasant, is better than the life in Nigeria that he fled, although the film glosses over this fact - saps some of our sympathy for him.
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