Archive for the ‘Brit Flick’ Category

*****Full Spoilers******

The Girl In The Park (Auburn, 2007. US)

This is a recurring phenomena and a recent viewing of The Girl In The Park set me trying to define it. I’ll outline my understanding of the characters and their relationship, to try and replicate the effect the dénouement had for me.

From the moment Louise (Kate Bosworth) breezes into Julia’s (Sigourney Weaver) life, we know Julia is being set up for a fall. The ambiguity over whether Louise really could be the long lost Maggie doesn’t make us hopeful, it just means the cataclysm, when it comes, could just be even more painful. To lose the same daughter twice would be more than Julia could withstand.

A sense of foreboding shoots through the scenes of domestic harmony, not from the moment Julia takes Louise in, nor when Julia casually deposits a key and leaves her home and possessions to the disposal of a self-confessed conwoman. No, these events are ostentatiously disquieting, it is the joyful equilibrium that is riddled with jangling apprehension. We wait with baited breath for it all to come crashing down, for a great confrontation; perhaps most anxiously for poor, stoic, Chris’s reaction. Of course at the family wedding, this is the classic setting for simmering familial tension to come to a head. An uninvited guest, estranged parents, alcohol, a stranger apparently more privy to a mother’s affections than her own son: all the strings are taut on Chris’s bow and as Julia stands to make her speech there is an almost audible clanging of The Bell of Doom. Then she says some heartfelt things and sits back down. For a couple of seconds we reel with the sense of narrowly averted catastrophe the, without warning or preamble, the other shoe drops.

The final scene, after familial reconciliation, after Chris finally says the dreadful words that Julia had perhaps never heard aloud, Maggie/Louise reappears begging sanctuary and offering (again), finally the truth and what does Julia say? ‘I don’t care.’ Such a loaded statement. Louise hears it as rejection, until she sees the open door [*ahem* METAPHOR] and suddenly they become words that surely we all want to hear. To offer up our past sins and failings, to be told ‘no matter, I accept you as you are, without judgement, censure or condition.’

Before, in the park, Julia had stared at Louise’s bare legs, then forced herself to look away before she could see whether the feted birthmark was there or not. She didn’t want to know, she wanted to leave herself with hope. Hope is an infinitely better feeling than Certainty. If this truly was her Maggie then that would create as much pain as it cured. Her next attempt at verifying her speculation ends in both women fully subscribing to the fantasy, each using the other to fill a void in her own life.

At the last though, when she and we both know for certain that this is not, and could never really have been, her Maggie, that revelation isn’t crushing. Julia realises that the relationship she has forged with this lost young woman is mutually beneficial and that she leads to let little Maggie go, to let her rest. In an instant, she makes her peace and the two sit down to dinner, entirely at ease. The end. There is reconciliation with Chris and Celeste, joy at the new baby, the prospect of a loving and uncomplicated relationship with boss man. No great cataclysm, but no great resolution either. It almost doesn’t matter that the core question- what happened to Maggie?- was never answered. It was almost a MacGuffin to get us to this point. I was surprised that the whole precarious zephyr didn’t go down in a ball of flames, but glad that Julia found some peace, even that lonely, amoral Louise found some rest. Not what I was anticipating, but this fragile equilibrium is as much as we could ask for.

So this set me to thinking about other acceptably ambiguous endings, with no great or final resolution. Thus far my list comprises:

My Summer of Love (Pawlikowski, 2004. UK)

Plenty of people were frustrated by this ending, but I think I get it. Dissenting voices said ‘why didn’t Mona just kill Tamsin?’ But 16/17 year olds fall in and out of love all the time, teenagers betray each other and get their hearts broken and, crucially, get over it. Your average adolescent girl does not commit murder with her bare hands every time she gets dumped.

The thing is, it was all a game for Tamsin; she’s spoilt, lonely and deprived of emotionally valid relationships, especially with people her own age. Plus, potentially she is actually gay, which could well be worse in a boarding school than it is at a normal school I suspect. All of this compounds into an irrepressible desire to fabricate a world to inhabit and a lack of social and emotional empathy. She’s not evil.

Mona, however, is a practical girl. She was seduced by Tamsin, her self-assurance, her knowledge and exoticism; so different from the salty, working class Yorkshire villagers she’s used to, but she has her head on her shoulders really. She’s hurt, more deeply than she could have imagined, by the betrayals of first her brother, then her manipulative lover, but she will roll up her sleeves and carry on. This is a girl who bought a moped with no engine because it was going cheap. ‘Drowning’ Tamsin was the end of the game, the line underneath their sundrenched fantasy. It couldn’t really end any other way, there was no happy ever after that could be attained here, and murder-suicide-tabloid frenzy? Too Hollywood, too dramatic. Here things just fizzle out, that fire and drive of youth just fades away and we settle into nothing. So I didn’t mind this ending.

I think most people’s displeasure at this conclusion, or absence thereof, stems from the lack of catharsis, the dearth of dramatic resolution. Much like unsatisfactory old life- it just keeps on, with nothing much of anything to draw a line under each phase as it passes.

Julia (Erick Zonca, 2008. UK)

Well this film just kept surprising me. For the first hour I just hated this character, I could not abide her; even the way she breathed grated on me. Then, as the situation escalated way beyond her control, I inexorably found myself rooting for her to succeed. I kept hoping each double blind and bluff would pay off, whilst constantly bracing myself for a bloody, tragic dénouement or ignominious capture. The little boy was bestowed with so little character that I didn’t really care whether he ended up with his authoritarian grandfather or loco addict mother, as long as he didn’t die at the hands of Mexican gangsters.

As each machination unfolded I found myself thinking ‘do it, do it!’ So when Julia ends up with no money, no car, escalating debts, wanted by the FBI, stood on the central reservation of a foreign motorway clutching another woman’s child and sobbing with relief, it wasn’t what I thought was going to happen, and it isn’t really the outcome I’d hoped for, but it was okay. She had, in some oblique way, found redemption. The boy was safe (as safe as he could be in the circumstances) and no one had, at that moment, been shot or arrested. Apart from people earlier in the film. An uneasy equilibrium is reached and it’s alright. The palpable relief as the child is released, the genuine human emotion that oases between the two at their reunion, despite the circumstances of their acquaintance, those are valuable emotions; this is a stirring moment, though we may be left unsure what it means.

There should be a word for this type of ending. Is there? Tell me. Feel free to pitch in with other films that end in an unexpected but ultimately acceptable, if not entirely satisfactory fashion.

It’s Remembrance Sunday and I want to pay my respects. Processing, as I do, by means of popculture, I see a themed viewing as an apt means of tribute. So this is my recommended viewing for after the service. I’ve tried to avoid the obvious- there are no de facto (world) war films in the list- but I thought about National Identity, Pride and Heroism, Freedom and Liberation. They are a loose frame around a day of reflection. In no particular order:

1. This Is England (Meadows, 2007, UK)

Against the backdrop of the Falklands, which is approaching its 30th anniversary, a flawed but brilliant flick about identity and the freedoms soldiers died protecting being undermined by our own people, on our own soil. Thatcher hadn’t fucked us right up yet, but she was getting there, nationalism had an ugly grip on national pride and we had to reassert our place on the world stage. Without invading anyone for a change.

2. Small Island (BBC, 2009, UK)

A two-part BBC adaptation of Andrea Levy’s immense novel. The oft-untold story of West Indian volunteers who gave up life in paradise to come to Europe and fight for British liberty. They were granted citizenship, but that didn’t afford them equality when they got here. A stain on our upstanding record, but it reveals an important chapter in how we came to be the diverse Britain we are today, and why black people here are British and not ‘African-English’ or something. Because although race isn’t a big part of my personal identity construction, British racial unity is very important to me and my sense of nation. Young Ashley Walters is a fine actor and a living example of redemption and rehabilitation for disadvantaged inner city men. The tiny personal victories and losses of the characters in Small Island every bit as important as the almost incomprehensible scale of the military campaigns.

3. Four Lions (Morris, 2010, UK)

Maybe a controversial choice, surely an irreverent one, but it is a true testament to the British spirit that we are ready to satirise our biggest threat (beyond climate change.) We are free to depict the enemy within, to identify, vilify and mollify their actions and our fears. That is what living in a free and fair society means in 2011- we may not always be able to protect our streets, but we’ve always got spirit. In the blitz sense, not in the cheerleading way. There’s nothing more British than laughing at that which may well be our undoing, over a cup of tea and a digestive, or a pint and a kebab, on the Tube breathing in other people’s breath or on the beach breathing in brine and sewage. You’ve got to laugh.

4. Children of Men (Cuarón, 2006, UK/USA)

This is a dark film, but beautifully shot. A dystopian near future where more people are displaced by war than have a nation it seems. This is, above all, a picture about the heroism of the British Everyman. Despite his apathy, his dejection and the starkness of the odds, Clive Owen’s Theo goes to great lengths to fight for someone else’s freedom. In a Britain torn apart by nationalist infighting and homegrown terrorism he still recognises the rights of the individual and the need for the greater good and he acts on it. Like every Brit should and I hope I would. This is the flick that made me think- ‘we’re in a state right here, but maybe what our grandfathers fought for wasn’t all for nothing.’

5. When The Wind Blows (Murakami, 1986, UK)

The saddest animation ever made? This sucker punch of a film, in Raymond Briggs’ gentle watercolour, is a Cold War horror story in picture book’s clothing but also a sweet tale of love and innocence from the generation who withstood the Nazi onslaught and still raised our parents to mind their Ps and Qs. Only one couple appear in the whole film, but the unspoken desolation, the implied genocide, chills you more than any slasher flick or CGI spectacular. It is, after all, a day of reflection. Let us also be thankful that during those fraught days the war machine for once did not grind into action. CND- I salute you too.

6. My Neighbour Totoro (Miyazaki, 1988, JP)

The only non-British film on the list (not deliberately, I must be feeling patriotic.) This is one of my three go to films when I just need to feel glad. [Bande A Part and Enchanted if you’re wondering- Sx] It is sweet and unsullied by worldliness and as the adorable hand drawn credits roll, I just smile. It’s a rare thing for me and in general. For something to be pleasant with no agenda, for children to start off innocent… and remain so, is like an orchid in December. This film reminds me of when I thought the world was essentially good and that fairness was a reality, rather than a nice idea; on a day when we think of the lives we could have had, if not for the bravery and sacrifice of people who would never know us, I think it’s important to appreciate simple pleasures too, otherwise what was the point of our deliverance?

13.11.11 Remembrance Sunday 2011.

Just a quick reminder that This Is England ’86 starts tonight on C4 at Ten PM GMT.

Isn't this the legendary neighbour from Somers Town?.

It’s  queued up on my mum’s Sky+ and I shall be posting on the first installment soon.  Judging by the massive jump in hits, I’m not the only one disappointed not to see Jack O’Connell in this series. No word as to why that might be the case, but his filming schedule didn’t look so packed that they couldn’t have worked something out.

I’m keen to hear what you all think.

In other news- a medium storm is gathering around Natalie Portman’s best shot at being a grown up actress since, well Leon really. Black Swan, written and directed by everyone’s favourite indie-ish auteur Darren Aronofsky. If it weren’t for the fact that he has taken Rachel Weisz off the market the guy might be a little bit of a cinematic hero.Clearly flawed and fallible, as the best heroes are, but with unswerving clarity of directorial vision. After the acclaim and popularity of The Wrestler, he has big money behind him and it looks like he’s taking full advatage of the financiers and distributors’ newly assured faith. I’ll be  rounding up responses soon, but universal word  on the street is that Portman turns out  a career best and delves new depths of acting craft yaddah yaddah.

As can be expected, a deal of the more prurient attention is focused on the interface between Portman and co-star Mila Kunis’s, erm, face. Like so:Portman/Kunis facial interface

Whether that is relevant and necessary or merely hype-baiting showboating remains to be seen. Black Swan is touring festivals now and should start seeing limited releases from December.

Also on my radar: Somewhere, the latest offering from Copolla junior, is making the rounds.  The Illusionist looks fucking awesome and is garnering semi-culture (mid-way between pop and high) kudos. Written but never made by tragic clown Jacques Tati and now illustrated and animated by Belleville Rendez-Vous animateur  Sylvain Chomet. I’m gutted I haven’t been able to see it yet- it was the star feature at my former local ‘indie’ [well Picturehouse] The Duke of York’s and even made a popular encore. The Runaways has arrived. I’ll betray my ignorance and confess I had heard neither of them, nor Joan Jett, till this film entered production, as notable for Dakota Fanning being nearly grown up (eek) and Kristen Stewart purportedly doing acting (improbable), as for the biographical subject matter.

Also keep your peepers peeled for Skeletons which recently won the Michael Powell award at the 2010 Edinburgh Film Festival.

What’s new in your world?

Well I’ve been a long time away, but I saw something last night that spurred me to get back on the blogging wagon. It was this here. This Is England ’86. How very exciting for us all. (For UK readers only I suspect- sorry international blogees.) This Is England 86 promo still

It is a four part co-production from C4 and FilmFour which will be airing on our tellyboxes this Autumn. Starring the original cinematic cast, co-written (with Jack Thorne of Skins fame) and co-directed by the man Meadows himself, scored by my favourite contemporary composer Ludovico Einaudi and purportedly bearing “many resonances to now[:] recession, lack of jobs, sense of the world at a turning point.” This has win written all over it. Sadly original cast member and Skins alumni Jack O’Connell does not appear to be reprising his role of Pukey Nicholls. Alas

This announcement set me on concurrent trains of thought. The first is how I’ve only recently realised that ‘miniseries’ is just a ‘mini’ series, not, as I have always mistakenly believed, a discrete term (pronounced minniz-areez) which relates to a two, three or four part adaptation,  usually of a literary work of some standing. As, with the Beeb especially, this is generally the case with regards their miniseries, I hope I may be forgiven the belated etymological comprehension.

Second, and far more pertinent, was a speculation that in the wake of the gutting announcement that our shambles of a Con-Dem coalition have axed our vital and prosperous national Film Council, with £4bn of our GDP and 35,000 jobs going with it, not to mention tourism revenues, perhaps our homegrown heavyweight talents may start turning more towards the small screen, as is the vogue Stateside. Of course Hollywood has always been a dual medium industry, but the big screen big hitters have had no need for serial work in the past. However, with the likes of Glenn Close, Kyra Sedgwick, Mary-Louise Parker, Anna Paquin, Alec Baldwin et al clocking up their network hours (or is it cable? I don’t really care) the stigma of trading down is dissipating.

The only incidence I could think of where a major big screen director, from the indier side of the tracks, took up a directing gig for more than a guest episode on an established series was David Lynch’s seminal Twin Peaks and high hopes as I may be allowing myself to have, I suspect TIE 86 won’t quite be a Brit equivalent of that unparalleled powerhouse. There was Hitchcock’s programme, but that isn’t really applicable here.

So my point is, although all this was commissioned betwixt recession and the cultural effluent of the unelected affluent hitting our collective public fan of entertainment, mayhap the bloody Tories are unwittingly heralding in a new age of highly produced made for TV drama, which alongside the nouvelle sim-com, is a budget-efficient way of cranking out cracking telly on a low-risk scale. If our silver screen heroes have no publicly-funded outlet, will this be where they turn? Better that than they all fuck off across the pond anyway. Especially for the blondes. That isn’t bigotry on my part- it’s worldliness. Time and again Hollywood have shown they do not like their young Brit women blonde. Bad luck Lisa Faulkner, Lucy Davis et al.  Ashley Jensen seems to be the only one to buck the trend, but only by sticking to telly and churning out the kooky 30-something best friend schtick. A fair haired Briton will never a leading lady make. Unless she’s Helen Mirren, who few of us may hope to emulate. Whatever happened to Lisa Faulkner? I just hope Laura Aikman hasn’t gone the same way. Stay here Laura! My tellybox needs you in it!

Remain vigilant for forthcoming assessment of TIE 86 as and when it appears, and probably analysis of the criticism and response too. Apologies for the shameful lapse in posts. I promise I’ll make it up to you! As well as the shiny posts and page promised below, I have a new column planned for you (that’s a regular feature post in amongst self-indulgent musings etc).

I love you bloggees [One ‘g’? Two? I’m undecided. Answers on a postcard], in my apathetic, disaffected youth-of-today kind of way. Just to prove it- here’s a kitten. I fucking love kittens.

Solo x

Severance (Smith, 2006. UK)


Severance- headless suit***Minor Spoilers****

Standard splatterstock and largely predictable but with a few proper laughs. It’s almost a corporate Battle Royale, except the initial corporate downsizing storyline was written out and transplanted with a bizarre Revenge of the Hungarian War Criminals backstory. Which is apparently a comment on corporate responsibility and the culpability of the Western Arms Trade. Personally I think it’s just an excuse to kill off suits in varied and increasingly gory fashion while That Twat Danny Dyer blunders about making ‘comic’ lewd comments in his ludicrous mockney drawl. What Laura Harris Laura Harris stares pensively from windowcould possibly see in him is unfathomable. The male directors’ Wish Fulfilment Rule again. You know the one where no matter how old/aesthetically repellent/ socially incompetent you may be, the beautiful, intelligent and well-adjusted woman will fall for you, just because you’re the main character. Just like in life. Harris is a likeable actress and usually worth a watch, however her purpose here appears to be chiefly to act as an object of lust for the various derisible or simple two dimensional male characters. (more…)

Misdirection:

Shane Meadows falls into the breaking-out-of-your-auteurist-cycle trap


I have chosen Meadows as the subject for my first overview of a body of work, because he’s essentially the only real contemporary British director, and recently he did something out of character. I mean yeah, there’s Loach and Leigh, but they’re old school and still doing the same old schtick. There is immediacy and relevance in, say, Sweet Sixteen, but I’d say Meadows is the only one with a canon of currently applicable work.

His two genuine forays into genre filmmaking- Thriller and Mockumentary- still have his distinctive thumbprints all over them, with the added distinction of starring my favourite actor, the estimable Paddy Considine, but the bulk of Meadows’ output is of the ilk that transcends genre labelling. The Midlands Man’s last effort Somers Town, however, as I have commented, was a rather unprecedented about face in many respects and it could be argued that he let his fans down.

Over the course of many dozens of feet of celluloid consistency Meadows has made a promise to his audience, garnered expectations and although he hinted at more gentle preferences with Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee, the genre conventions liberated from his more obvious signature details and idiosyncratic set-pieces. Furthermore, Considine’s self-styled Donk is a Morrell-lite character- a tightly wound manchild with a short fuse and a fearsome lack of self-awareness. (more…)

Here it is folks. I haven’t even read back what I’ve written, but this is the first Liveblogging attempt. It’s pretty long, so I’m going to trial using  exerpts intead of full posts on the home page. Hope you enjoy!

********Warning Full SPOILERS*********

Sugarhouse (Love, 2007. UK)

00:00:20

A not quite middle aged white man traverses real London, beyond the City and the tourists, and though he is almost certainly a native, he seems uncomfortable out here, maybe in the heart of the city, perhaps as far afield as Zone 3. The graffiti tag stylising of the opening credits set the genre quite distinctly. British, urban, almost certainly gritty, dealing with class and poverty. Your standard inner-city drama/thriller I’d say. Oh, and Gollum’s in it as someone called ‘Hoodwink’ who I’ll bet is a kingpin drug dealer or gang lord type. Three to One.

Just in case we hadn’t noticed this man’s out-of-placeness, the handheld DV flags it up for us. His eyes light on a series of grotesques and caricatures as his unease becomes ours. Directed by Gary Love. He is accosted in a market café by Ashley Walters out of So Solid who earned his stripes and showed his chops in Bullet Boy. Here he seems to be playing some demented delinquent version of himself again. Less world weary than his lead role in that film.

As the altercation ends we see our man did intend to meet this capering rood boy Caliban, so what is he up to? He’s clearly involved in something over his head, that much is clear from the office attire and the way he gazes up at the high rise tower block they come to. A visually striking crane shot presents the block as something more than poorly-planned social housing for a moment, it is Hockney or one of those great American print artists. Then we snap down to ground level and it’s just somewhere you hope you won’t have to live. Or visit. (more…)

SOMERS TOWN (Meadows, 2008. UK)

Somers Town is an odd little experiment. The first film ever to be exclusively financed through product placement, the details of the contract were a closely guarded industry secret. Despite the caginess however the grubby thumbprints of corporate intervention are all over this brief DV ballad. With an auteur so established in his tropes and tendencies as Shane Meadows interference on the part of unpop-cultured suits was always going to be as discomfitingly obvious as a shaved Persian cat.

The first point of contention is the setting. Nottingham native our Shane breaks out in a rash if he ventures south of the Gap, yet he has, without precedent, set an entire film in the Smoke.  He can’t quite shake off these roots; the film begins with young Tommo (This Is England star Thomas Turgoose) on a train from his midlands hometown. En route he makes a Single Serving Friend© of a Kindly Stranger, a nice business woman who seems to the young man a good omen and to the more cynical/ better versed in the rules of realist cinema among us  the instigator of a false sense of  security and optimism.

Proceedings begin consistently enough, with naïve Tommo coming a cropper in the big city, mugged and left bereft of phone, cash or even a change of pants. So far so London right? But as things look set to turn grim as for our Tommo, his Kindly Stranger cuts him a break and buys him lunch.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, Marek- a young Polish lad, potters about town with his camera like some sort of arty autistic savant, while the threatening man he lives with is hard at work building the shiny new St. Pancras. Spotted our product yet? (more…)

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.

SONG OF SONGS (Appignanesi, 2005. UK)

I vaguely recall reading a good review of Song of Songs round about the time of release. I was paying attention to Natalie Press back then; after the critical success of Wasp and a respectable showing in My Summer of Love she was looking set to become something of a darling of the British indie crowd. It had a very limited release however and after finally catching it on iPlayer I can see why. Press is perfectly acceptable in her performance, all the actors do the best that could be expected with the source material, but the whole enterprise just begs the question ‘why?’

Billed as a domestic drama exploring the tensions between an Orthodox Jewish family when the matriarch falls ill, SOS is in fact nothing so routine.

While it was interesting to see the rituals and behaviours of Jewish orthodoxy (for example the stock character of the estranged son who rebels against his upbringing is recharged here in the articulate and complex David who, despite his rejection of the Orthodox creed, compulsively adheres to the proscribed ritual hand washing)- not often portrayed or described in popular media- this claustrophobic play is imbued with a sense of unease that had me squirming in my seat twenty minutes in.

Despite a lean running time of eighty-one minutes Song of Songs rapidly becomes infuriating. I’m no stranger to glacial development, but here we are endlessly subjected to two steps forward, one step back. The implied sexual tension which repeatedly builds between siblings David and Ruth is undermined by distracting, but presumably deliberate, loss of focus before being diffused yet again by a slow and baffling fade to white.

The film is riddled with odd behaviour and obscure, if not opaque motivations, including the brother moving back into his family home, ostensibly to tutor his sister, ‘deprogramme’ her of religious indoctrination if you will, but concealing his presence from their ailing mother who is crying out to see her alienated son before she dies. The course and purpose of David’s instruction is impossible to second guess and somewhat sadistic and Ruth’s submission to him symptomatic of her inability to place herself within the insular Orthodox community of London.

In all this film is deeply unsatisfying and fails to be either shocking or profound. The queasy denouement is a moment which should probably have come halfway through, if at all. The final scene was frankly incomprehensible. If you’ve got a flatmate with dubious personal hygiene whom you cannot entreat to shower under their own volition, perhaps showing them Song of Songs will do the trick. Otherwise, steer well clear.