STRAIGHTHEADS (Reed 2007. UK)

Posted: 29/01/2010 in Brit Flick, The Verdict
Tags: , , , ,

Straightheads: (Reed 2007. UK)

Largely a two hander betwixt repatriated ex-colonial defector Gillian Anderson and that twat Danny Dyer. It’s an odd little film, it feels almost like a Sarah Kane play. We get to know very little of the characters before who they are is utterly undone by a shocking and brutal act of random violence. That will read like a lot of synopses you may have come across for revenge and horror type dreck, but this is a truly brutal few moments of cinema and even though you know it’s coming (I was almost cringing in apprehension of the moment when it eventually arrived) it does still manage to be shocking in the very humanness of their anguish, flailing before an incomprehensible lack of compassion. A rare occurrence given that we are an age who have truly seen it all, within the bounds of legality.

The fractured aftermath of the attack is where Straightheads stops coasting, transcends voyeurism, power games and dirty, loveless sex, and the film proper begins…

An indeterminate amount of time has passed since the two opportunist lovers were bound irreversibly together by shared trauma, by guilt and obligation. It goes without saying that they are together now, despite the age difference, the class barrier, their emotional incompatibility. Perhaps they would have holed up in her high-end, high-security London flat indefinitely had not fate and the gods of screenplays drawn Alice back to the locale of the attack. This happenstance draws the pair into a confounded but dogged revenge quest which takes up the remaining half of the runtime.

This is not your standard rape-revenge narrative. Not only is the process unclear, they do not have the unswayable moral conviction of those eighties (anti)heroines. They are not a united front- their damage, both physical and psychological, continues to take its toll- and they take some measures which are hard to condone, even hypothetically.

I’m not really sure how I feel about Straightheads. All I can say is that it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. A mature drama (not quite a thriller) with a surprisingly sage perspective on people.

An interesting note about the film is the strikingly American attitude to the respective threats of town and country. To Brits the urban sprawl is breeding ground for violence, for rape, for senseless rage, and that most objectionable contagion, the working class. The countryside means escape, the civility and increasingly quaint detachedness of the lingering gentry and simple country folk portrayed on either side of the salt-of-the-earth/ laughable bumpkin dichotomy. Across the Atlantic however, with those wide, wild uncharted expanses, rural space is threatening, crawling with cannibal hillbillies, where mysterious disappearances are rife.

The irony then, of Alice investing so much in securing her home with the latest technologies and remote systems, only to be defiled miles from civilisation, is yet another little chip in the rock face that is Britons’ sense of ourselves and our world.

For all their difference, polished Citywoman Alice and rough diamond working lad Adam are inarguably products of metropolis (despite Alice’s privileged country upbringing, she has embraced London and all it represents.)  On a Venn diagram they’d be squarely in the urbanite circle. Speaking of squares in circles, they are the unfit pegs when it comes to survival away from civilisation. They are ill-equipped to resist the unrefined brawn and brutality of the outdoorsmen they encounter on a remote rural road.

Taking a step back from the emotional tumult, this film presents us with a pretty efficient working model of Darwinism, in all its terrible symmetry.

Watch this space for a full post on that theory.

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