Bad day for the Cut : A Film Review

Bad day for the Cut

Directed by Chris Baugh. Written by Chris Baugh and Brendan Mullin.

Nigel O’Neill as Donal O’Neill, Susan Lynch as Frankie Pierce, Józef Pawlowski as Bartosz, Stuart Graham as Trevor Ballantine, David Pearse as Gavigan, Anna Próchniak as Kaja, Stella McCusker as Florence, Ian McElhinney as Eamon, Brian Milligan as Jerome, Shashi Rami as Vivian Lalor Roddy as Leo McMahon, Ryan McParland as Ossie, Andrew Porter as Damien.
Production Katy Jackson and Brendan Mullin, Music by James Everett, Cinematography by Ryan Kernaghan, Film Editing by Brian Philip Davis. Six Mile Hill Productions. Cert. 18. Duration 1hr 39mins.

Before I start I update the blog as I’ve discussed s covered the meaning of the title but not its allusion to the Film itself other than a lot of people get cut down.  Apparently it’s an Agricultural colloquialism – I’m sure it’s not confined to Tyrone, or Antrim – and it is when the conditions are foul or the forecast is foul for the necessary cutting of crops and harvesting.  I hope the Sundays Harvest Service (29/10/17) All Souls Church goes peaceful and s uneventful. Today (Sat.) the preparations are going well inside, decorating ever nook and cranny.  That is Entrance, window cills, corners, pillars, pulpit and Choir pews. Looking forward to it.

Debut promise
The Chris Baugh debut feature Bad day for the Cut is a modern Irish revenge thriller with a broad scoping and complex plot driven along by the dark secrets of different family histories in this troubled province.  At times it becomes a trail of bodies and sets off after a flashback, more later, with a farmer living the quiet life with his mother in an Co. Antrim farm.  Scenes of domestic rustic rural harmony  prevail with the caring son Donal (Donal O’Neill) eager to ensure his frail mother is not neglected and this is seen initially as a caring need and relationship.  Donal is fond of shooting rabbits for a stew and his country and western music, which is not a rarity here and he listens while he fixes old cars or does work on anything that takes his fancy , away from the tedium of routine farm work.  Into his existence comes another star of the film a neglected Transit as a payment for work on an old banger which he turns into his boys shed over a period of time.


Open Country

Donal’s world becomes forever turned upside down when he catches the wrong end of an act of violence one night at his own home.  An absentee from the film are the Police except for the presence of two Detectives (back view only) as a result of this disruptive and gruesome act of violence at the farm.  This is quite probably due to it being entirely filmed here in Northern Ireland were the risks of reprisal are clear sadly and it may be why ‘impersonation’ was not an option.  From then on in the violent frenzy that happens they are not to be seen. Filmically too is a stoic political call by the Director/Writers on the Scandinavian noir of clever troubled detectives not being a Northern Ireland familiarity.  (Shallow thought!)  Crime fiction is a local speciality (look up No Alibi’s independent bookshop) and like this film it is seldom a reflection of more destructive truth no matter where the written word takes you.

Donal is completely at a loss to explain why this atrocity has happened until he himself becomes a target of violence. Then the wheel turns and it is his turn to act. From small beginnings Donal is now the avenger/revenger and the genre becomes a wide expanse of multi-cultural links forming a jigsaw puzzle no one has completed image of and it is this we are drawn into.  The Latin word, synonym, for incredulous is Aporetic.  From the word Aporia which is thrust into and occupies much of Northern Ireland rhetoric.  The film could have appropriated that name.  A local artist, Gail Ritchie has a forthcoming show at Platform Arts Belfast on external War memoria which will co-incide with all kinds of Remembrance. This film is about not knowing the full story as people never do.

Aporia : a difficulty encountered in establishing the theoretical truth of a proposition, created by the presence of evidence both for and against it.

For empathy and good versus evil there is no actual clear station of rectitude or resolution.  Once Donal is in his revenge mode he looses any rationality or credibility.  One feature of the film poster is its likeness to the Spaghetti Western standards, Django, Fistful of Dollars or the one with a Belfast connection – A Town called Bastard starring Robert Shaw of (some connection!) to these parts. This genre approach is a virtual context and allusion which is narrowly made.  Comparisons of inner city hoods can be found in the Dublin centric Cardboard Gangsters reviewed here earlier.  (Put the film name in the white box top right to obtain the post likewise other notable films)

While it is true the chronic violent riddled town/city certainly Belfast and Northern Ireland has been, with its tragic magnitude of violence and as it still has hurt as an undercurrent to the everyday, the post traumatic shock has embedded in many citizens whether directly affected or not. Hence the medical bill.  Other cities are subjected to variations of the lack of moral discipline and the film tries to reflect here in Belfast the story of families affected by their tragic misfortune and wrong choices theirs or others.   I happened to be re-reading a chapter or two of the 2000 book, Northern Protestants – An Unsettled People by Susan McKay which documents district by district across the province the interrelation of acts of destruction and their impact and legacy left of very similar disregard for life.  The untenable becomes tenable and the ‘new normal’ (media speak), goes further as past lives causal projection is cyclical which is seen as one of the most forceful effects of this film.  Unforgiving and God forsaken is the message to be taken in deploring all acts of violence and the meaningless outcomes they accumulate. The ‘actors’ of violence perpetuate the hurt creating new grave passages.


Currency

New times have arrived and racketeering and the gangster riddled combatants work the undercurrent of a superficial peace.  Memories and family stories are woven in a weave no one has a complete picture of.  Aporia.  An unlikely mobster is a family woman.  Susan Lynch plays her femme fatale best inhabiting the part brilliantly, her face expressing rage, inner strengths, bitterness and she conveys potent sexual latency as a jewel among thorns.  As a highly driven woman her role is large in the film as she is intent on achieving her objectives regardless of the cost but with a motherly hand towards her own daughter in contrast to her own past.  So two vengeful people are the at the centre of the story and the opposites create a battle of wills.  Let the contest begin or as Northern Ireland has it continue.

Without a male partner she runs a prostitution racket with her stock and trade initiating in a bodies count, a ruthless and violent streak of heavy malevolent business as she tries to remain in control.  There is no indication for the largesse of wealth, – ‘the drive’ is Belfasts go to hidey hole, – she has become used to as she brings up a single child, 5 year old daughter whose exposure to the everyday business is mostly obscured though Mother does let her mouth loose with words and temper tantrums no child should be witness to.  The script realises it but it is ‘accomplished’ in one or two scenes.
The lead male character and co-driver of the film is the large stocky farmer we know called Donal O’Neill, played grittily and with determined off the scale rage, a man in his fifties whose part in the machinations or outcomes of the ‘troubles’ is miraculously innocent and of little affect.  How he has avoided the obvious is not clear.  His mother Florence is portrayed by Stella McCusker, whose part requires a completely convincing woman carrying as many women in the country do, a burden of grief and remorseful tears locked up and unseen while secrets are held. Stella McCusker carries it off superbly in a sensitive subtle nuanced way, with her reservoir of theatre and film expertise, the convincing portrayal of a woman with memories, secrets, worried but still in charge of her own world courting for us nevertheless a source of intrigue. Acting as a shield to others, her offspring, her peace is disrupted as the past unravels.

The film opens with to revenge taken on a man in palliative care with a breathing mask filling his lungs with oxygen while he is in the last stages of life. Lalor Roddy is the man. With his usual prime attendance to his craft he opens the film in an interesting short introduction which turns out to be a flashback.



Sunny skies

From there the action returns to the present and a Northern Ireland picturesque and getting along nicely with the entrails of back office culture jobs and telephone call centres in the very heart of Belfast City.  New tech and science STEM is a sole captivator of nuanced 21c life.  Sidelines are the artistic interpretations. Game of Thrones being only a symbolic us of this Ulster theatre in a vaguely conjectural transportive escape.  Capers and criminality is a parallel world real and unreal.  Life in redressing the postcard image is on message. Any murky past is not for outward consumption. An archive of injustices and the undealt with past is locked up in memories along with state and terrorists files never to see new light. Property is lush and shows signs of prosperity as the braces are attached to pull up the ragged trousered philanthropist cloth of the Linen City in true entrepreneurial Ulster style.

The past traffic of ingenuity which was and still holds up, is scotched by the economic equator we live on. New commerce a roguery is the diet we enter. The other villainy is the stock and trade of impure violence.
The vision in the film is of the fictional underworld in a confined and largely inaccurate form.  It is a fiction based on contemporary instinct.  No telling of the real story would be sufficient as access to understanding. These strands are separated and contingent on whose version of events you believe.

The truth would be completely scary and would in many cases lead to greater unconstrained levels of revenge violence – excepting the likehood generations are unlikely to form into self-destructive groups – except the no-hopers hanging on to the coat-tails of handed down myth as a means to lever power and accentuate their projected legacy of ill read history and infect new generations with their appalling virus.


Whether the film is embraced as a depiction of a society continuing to be incapable of dealing with its past and truth hidden harbouring realities of unspeakable betrayal and insurgence is questionable.  Outside the Island the narrative will come across as a unnerving catastrophic revenge movie full of provocative instinctive shades of red mist exploding causing more cyclical damage and as an action piled up body count it puts it on the same shelf as revenge thrillers of equal intensity – it will be interesting to hear how the Chinese subtitled version went down. It is already out of the blocks as it premiered at The Egyptian Theatre at the Sundance Festival last year and Edinburgh Film Festival and was locally was the closing film of the Belfast Film Festival of this year.

Because it is adult cinema and particularly a local community based narrative with a fictional web making connections to many people’s lives and understanding of the legacy in their lifetimes, it is to be toured across Northern Ireland in venues chosen to bring out a wider audience than the ‘Moviehouse’ screens across the province.  The tour dates are below.  As a film of universal cinematic value it also is intentionally provocative and any tool in the box – lead character Donal is a man whose ingenuity is seen as someone who reaches more than metaphorically for what’s handy, ‘that ‘ill do the job!’ – which makes people deal with their own past and the get on the path to resolving differences of blockchain theory’s in their heads. New light and fresh dilemmas are surmountable only if the past is recalled with truth and remorseful probity.

Dark light

Polish actor Józef Pawlowski as Bartosz, Anna Próchniak as Kaja, carry the new international phenomenon of a transitory youth into Belfast and Ireland.  Neither have a desire to remain here and one of them has stronger reasons than the other to get out.  By scoping out the story the writers bring a reality of immigrants settling in a cove of their own narrowness through concern of not belonging and integration torturous and complex with the backdrop of sectarianism on acting on their will.  Existinence is survival to be built on.  The tailoring of other characters, chiefly the hoods is deftly cast. Florences younger brother Eamon (Ian McElhinney) is a townie who keeps himself away from trouble and leaves it in the past. Stuart Graham playing Trevor Ballantine who is the no.2 to Frankie likes to be suited and clean shaven.   He gives off an air of being on the precipice of incompetence while unaware of were he is and what his motivations are. Why he chose the work is pure guesswork and he is always one step behind the curve. Frankie on the other hand is a woman who is compelled to joining the action as her edifice crumbles. Bartosz and Kaja are in this drama up to their necks and centrally Józef Pawlowski excels working alongside this mad bunch out on the edge of their acting chops and getting into it with as much nuance as his eyes can convey. A learning experience for all no doubt.


Conclusion ####4
Like a narrow gauge railway traveling too fast this is a train of thrilling revenge souring and escalating beyond redemption and for practically all on its journey the lurching and weaving slow down and wrong turns add up as the film careers out of control down into some soon to be discovered abyss.  Then there will be silence. There will be liberty.  There will be peace.  Not on these terms the cast say.  We need a result to suit our knowledge and our grief is the premise.  We do it for the sake of everyone gone before and to follow. By being completely deranged ejjits high on the adrenaline rush of survivors instinct they boil the stew of violence into a deathly conclusion.  The deliverance is summoning up lots of sage parables while partly glamorising the affects by not making it dark enough.  They skip the bloodied heads, the unrecognizable body parts (I conject for the possible scenes the viewer may or may not see!) and it draws back to gain audience retention yet is still Cert. 18. A badge of dishonour?  It becomes a shade predictable and no character really is seen as someone to empathise with save the foreign ‘visitors’.  Those need foreign audiences.

Be warned it’s mad and at times bloody and totally bonkers.  It has a feel of a step back to following in the aftermath of spaghetti westerns trying to find a new field. The field is Belfast/Templepatrick with the North Coast of Ireland thrown in for chutzpah. Slightly demented but truthfully entertaining as a misguide to the violence around us.
John Graham

20 October 2017

Belfast.
The 8:30 pm screening on Tues 24 Oct at QFT will be introduced by writer/producer Brendan Mullin and writer/director Chris Baugh.  After a run at Queen’s Film Theatre (20 – 26 Oct) the tour calls at:

The Picture House (Ballyclare) 28 Oct
Portrush Film Theatre 9 Nov

Subterranean Film Club (Omagh) 10 Nov

Dungannon Film Club 15 Nov

Fermanagh Film Club 15 Nov

Newcastle Community Cinema 18 Nov

Foyle Film Festival (L/Derry) 23 Nov

Tí Scannán (Mullaghbawn) 1 Dec

Some events will also feature Q and A session with Chris and Brendan (tbc) so audiences will get to hear the (literally) gory details of the process of making the film and taking it to the big screen.

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The reality predicted in around the late 1960’s by Guy Debord never took on the self-radicalization of people as combatants for nations but it has tangible companionship as his fellow traveler Raoul Vaneigem accounts in The Revolution of Everyday Life.  It is a form of prophecy as is the intended alteration of history which combatants always see as their revolutionary act in their age.  The violence continuing on a scoping out of spectacle for themselves.  We are not just talking about the phenomenon of  ‘Mad Men‘ and spin but the vestigages of memory remployed as almost regal revelatory mindful discovery.

Inauthenticity is a right of man … Take a 35-year-old man. Each morning he takes his car, drives to the office, pushes papers, has lunch in town, plays pool, pushes more papers, leaves work, has a couple of drinks, goes home, greets his wife, kisses his children, eats his steak in front of the TV, goes to bed, makes love, and falls asleep. Who reduces a man’s life to this pathetic sequence of cliches? A journalist? A cop? A market researcher? A socialist-realist author? Not at all. He does it himself, breaking his day down into a series of poses chosen more or less unconsciously from the range of dominant stereotypes.”

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Fraught : A photographic interlude


Fraught worlds subside

SARC and the hearing experience

Few places free your mind like SARC.  Open today for a lunchtime performance by Frances-Marie Uitti for a blistering bewildering controlled journey in Cello polyphonics we were treated to this composers playing of a new works, one with accompaniment of Franziska Schroeder of SARC came a wonderful excursion through the places they have explored in experimental music.  On Cello the first piece was a setting of a work by Jonathan Harvey (1982) Curve with Plateau.  It at first sounded delivered straight from the Cello without monitors.  Then it became clear it opened up in binary speakers.  Taking in high straining notes symbolic of a curve it dropped and interweaves as a duet of sound like it was lineage of controlled nature in balance and fraught with counterpoint.  It challenges and transports then coheres as a watery path of sound in this auditorium a special rarely found and simply absorbed warm and breathy work.

Next came what is a piece by FM Uitti, an excerpt from Utopia (2015).  Built on classical lines it is a twisting resurgence of fine percussive beats and primitive rhythms played as Cello in counter sometimes double bowed mellow bass like Cello as another contest of vibes.  This time it’s considered, notes inform, as East : West with no complacency or stopping.  Machine sounds from F M U’s library of sound embrace the stifling proximity of intransigence with overtures to power held and thrust as dictates or trampled on as put down.  It too became a piece of remarkable playing in this auditorium.  I compared it to Drum and Bass with effects at a level taking in primitive basic sounds and echo was only in use as a spatial quality transporting listeners to a desolate and machine dominant sphere.  Samples prove to be a good tool with them in use not as stand alone found audio but as here used in overlayers and undershaping sounds.  The tomes of City etc. as literal devices have little use as these sounds cmbinecas unique and unheard sounds oblivious to our connection with those words.  The simple thing it projects is to a Utopia which we cannot see but might hear.

The final piece was the collaborative piece was reminiscent of when I heard Jan Garberek and The Hilliard Ensemble perform in close proximity.  JB was about a meter away when he began the concert and this time no tenor, counter tenor, or contralto but a fusion of ‘bird’ talk’ between two instruments.  The Cello and Saxaphone.

If more info is wanted follow improvasionalresearch.com and the SARC site where the binary headphone experience is to be mixed and put up for a representation of the above through Sonic Performance spaces 34 speakers.  That will be entirely different form the performance but a huge almost surreal transmission of it.  sarc.qub.ac.uk events will find you in the place.

Next Art from corners

Line and Litho 1

Improper Knot 2

RUA Time-Out (Children’s ante-room is a relief)


Metal object 1


RUA Fun Item 1


Binary World (after RUA work)


RUA 2 Fun is discernable?


Metal object 2


Portrait (after BP neck stretching exercise)


Metal alchemy 1

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Food corners

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Interior folds out

 

John Graham

12 October 2017

Belfast

 

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Daphne : A Film Review

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Daphne

Directed by Peter Mackie Burns, Produced by Valentina Brazzini, Tristan Goligher
Written by Nico Mensinga. Cast Emily Beecham – Daphne, Geraldine James – Rita, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor – Joe, Nathaniel Martello-White – David, Osy Ikhile – Tom, Sinead Matthews – Billy, Ryan McParland – Jay, additional cast, Ritu Arya – Rachid,  Richard Banks – Cigarette Thief, Gary John Clarke – Homeless Sandwich Guy,  Maurisa Selene Coleman – Friend,  Karina Fernandez – Beth,  Erica Guyatt – Cashier, Timothy Innes – Jimbo, Rania Kurdi – Sofia,  Amra Mallassi -Benny, Stuart McQuarrie – Adam.

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Daphne rules
There are a few Cinema Daphnes about. Nearly as many as the parts Domhall Gleeson inhabits in the film roster presently.  Playing opposite his A.A. Milne and the mother of (Goodbye) Christopher Robin is wife Daphne, the similarly multifarious Margot Robbie. The narrative here is of a single woman, Daphne aged 31, a local in London. Played by Emily Beecham, Daphne’s experience of life is given new perspective as a result of being a witness to an act of brutality.

Her life as a Chef in a busy, no bookings needed restaurant, run by Joe played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor – whose on the spot as a boss and as an irascible potential lover – is a vibrant one on the move with some night life and her scary attitude to sex (but precautions taken!) require her almost daily reading of modern philosophy as self analysis (Slavoj Zizek) in the afterglow of her habits.  The staff are usually knackered but in a response to this modernity of capitalist driven London and servile work on limited rewards they share dope.  It is recreational and supposedly non-threatening to them. We never get to know the backstory or delve into the present story of anyone in particular other than Daphne.  Centrally it is about the demise and nihilistic life taken.

Storyboard

I am therefore I watch. So onward.  It shapes up as being about the people’s present lives and getting along with things. The ‘and then?’ question asked by the novice Ida in the film of that name is studiously evoked in my reading.  Daphne is in some ways in an enviable position, on a career path to become a Sous Chef and up to the challenge with her admired taste buds. She is living alone in a nice house next to the contrasting crowded housing of the borough she lives in.  No mention of money worries is made except for a friend we meet a few times who ends up in a single bed apartment with another girl which is not a platonic relationship.

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Personally alive

This and other scenes point up the contrasts of her life to others and are neat asides of observance throughout never making us sure of whether we are going to like her character or not.  Situations of her either alone at home or with a random pick up are glimpses into someone finding a lack in home existence.  The relative safety and comfort of home is disrupted only her Mum played by the superb Geraldine James who is very alive but holding on with a life threatening disease and her use of mindfulness, Buddhism, is not a reality shared by Daphne.  Daphne is annoyed and at the same time loving towards her quixotic, mindful(ness) de-stressing mother. Anyone else she can deal with in her own home but solitude does not help her once the nightmare intrudes.  It is quite early on when the trauma occurs and it is then a case of where the story will take us.

Altered state

Daphne is slow to realise the effect of a changing shape to what was a life of vitality amidst work colleagues. Having assembled what she was aiming towards in her working life – service to not only customers but society it melts. Joe of the acerbic, Irish cutting driving general steering a loose lively crew is no longer meaningful along with everything else. Daphne begins to act oddly. Any certitudes have been dislodged. Her noisy colourful life was with tools forever lifted to help others happiness and the event which is central to the story has taken its toll.

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Contrasts appear.  Instead of likening her food which she excels in (taste buds only mildly acknowledged as effected by other dubious ingestitaions – drugs) her foodie happiness disintegrates and even eating is a chore.
Now the alternative to the wild exuberance of going out and enjoying herself and meeting her mothers psychological and familial needs are washed up.  The choice turns unappeasingly to alcohol and she eschews her mothers zen like world of adulthood in which she has created a daughter she loves, cherishes and hopes will share her idiosyncratic ways in some way but not cloyingly.  Anxiety, anger and bewilderment come to the fore. The signals she gives are clearly exposed. Daphne needs to express her feelings and several times she is partially allowed to which is where some of the more consequential parts of the story give reward.

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Hope

Part of the problem is her mental enclosure of the harm it has done to her. From a place where having the gift of making delicious meals to enjoy, the embodiment and thrill of sexual pleasures on the outside without to many commitments, produced sufficient temporary joy and escape. Attempts at reading philosophy before and after becomes a drastic recalibration from where she had some fix on or connection before but now she is unable to process or distinguish using whatever is available what things are important and what is fleeting and irreconcilable. It is because she won’t share with anyone the truth behind it or seek help. There is hope however as this itself dawns on her.

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Portents

For a writer to place a dilemma of a young woman’s world being confronted with an act which is random and futile might be difficult to have an audience adhere to. Writer Nico Mensinga and Director Peter Mackie Burns – whose first feature this is – do achieve this through small steps by putting Daphne through the mill. They take her unravelling as a component we connect with and partially empathise with her state. Here is one of the saving graces of the film. Given what script she has to work with – a misfire scene in a kitchen comes to mind as one of a few flaws – Emily Beecham is brilliantly on message and though there are no soliloquies or toxicity – the underscoring of her post traumatic state is not sufficiently persuasive script wise in my view – she offers a parallel imaginative world akin to a Jane Austen or Daphne de Maurier innocent heroine.  There is also a ‘rom’ drama there with the characters Joe – exhaling his love by giving Daphne a bye ball on several counts – a signal unseen – and David (Nathaniel Martello-White) the nightclub doorman Daphne meets persists with his eventful pursuit.

Making it work

Remedies are choices found in life as simple methods producing blocking out mechanisms and we follow the path wondering what effect it would have on whoever found themselves in that place.  Order is not a right.  Change alteration comes with every interaction.  The writing is sharp as is the direction but the former is not exploratory.  At times we see from overhead and long shots Daphne going about the street life busy and quiet in equal measure and recognise her isolation is conveyed.  Gently hope is given and certain reconciliations are brought out as possible routes to improvement.

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As a personality driven film taking persuasively, by excellent acting and direction, the trauma of small events which are not of themselves harmful to her but have a bearing and effect, demanding she process them, is broad reaching and very effectively delivered. Events before and after haunt her giving contrast as an indication of how she is dealing with her embattled mind. Essential focus is brought to Daphne in the Met. Police sponsored professional therapist Adam (Stuart McQuarrie) is brought through as an enabler. It is effectively called upon in the film as a dimension of contemporary experience though it is not always used and lesser mortals may not be up to facing a therapist in a comfortable home with a clinical environment more probable in boroughs where victims are created every five minutes.

Recovery

When she takes on board a therapy session only to find herself challenging the therapists lack of literary taste. One particular trait she throws irrationally at them – I saw another mor alarming one – behind her was among other books a Hillary Mantell volume. Only a demented soul requiring defective history of a form they aquaint with would give HM house room.

Daphne who has fallen into the abyss of a world of hate and harm when the brutal act is witnessed also meets a family, the family of Benny (Amra Mallassi) affected by the event. The family of the actual physical victim are themselves victims. There is another shore and marooned she becomes mentally fraught and things begin unravelling. Her first choice is alcohol. Bewildered, any meaning sought becomes unreliable. The values of friends are brought into disturbing clarity. The effect is completely unsettling and charged. So there is choice on the table and she has to select from a varied menu which challenges her unknowing unencoutered mental emotional tastebuds.

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Footer

Oh, and of Goodbye Christopher Robin, think Post War Mental Trauma, pastoral recovery, genial acting, stepping stones, pooh sticks, intelligent children, estrangement and manipulation of others. The accent is on the embattled duties of parenting in a publicly enhanced living environment where strange priorities take over and wrong choices are made. Another version of nurturing but I will not be embarking on a spiel about ‘Mother’.

Conclusion ###+3+

A promising debut feature. As the story is delivered it manages small notes of drama though some of these are underplayed.  Often, as Daphne becomes something of a reclusive, not able to communicate her troubles and moving on from very halting starts, in relationships and with work, it relies on your transposition of her state of mind.  On levels Daphne picks up on the chemistry of her attractions but shows she is unable to accommodate it in her mind.  The reclusive element presenting after the event is outdoors ‘external’ and not only within her home.  Mentally something has to give.  Disaster or release. This dynamic is the crux of the film’s premise. By only providing through talking aloud dialogue in a few scenes any illustration is partial and lacking gravity.

From the outset (if you’ve not read the above where I have not divulged my conclusion) I have to admit this film was not very engaging.  It only had one particular theme.  The central characters altering state of mind. Although it was a strongly acted piece with a significant beautifully focused Emma Beecham performance, it lacked sufficient insight.  Beyond the external scenes of depression and anxiety it is not cinematically expressed – to do it is very difficult and performance requires some devices to work with.  It requires subtlety, distinctive nods and pointers and not one liners indicating the ‘act’ which was used occasionally and a bit ineptly to show it had residency in Daphne’s mind.  What occurred to me was the question of how would you achieve the more connecting messages cinematically and I thought it is often the use of surreal devices and flashback with viewpoints taken as first person in those elements and thrown out as a vision of what Daphne is experiencing.  This duality of perspective was missing and it is consequently narrowing for this film to tell its story.

Daphne’s grinding spirit is her emotional world.  Emily Beecham is able to express and accomplish it with her reading of the character lifting it up, otherwise it might have been buried in emptiness.  Desires are satiated in her form of lifestyle and she shows these and projects a feisty willingness (making the Scottish connection more acute – the English bottling things up premise?! eschewed the question?!)  Dealing with her mothers pain and rightful need to connect properly with her ‘wild’ spirited daughter is a welcome relationship which Geraldine James does inhabit brilliantly.

On this I think the release – the actual knowledge of her mothers fragile existence and her coping mechanisms – happens to come inward to Daphne.  Here it delivers within the film’s narrative.  As a form of reference – her mothers illness – she uses it as a claim to reality.  Instead of rejecting the troublesome and loosing her ‘thread’ she is converted to owning her anxieties and then seeking opinion and help.  From no-one being around to help except Joe – (Chefs Issues?) Rita, Mum is the obvious ingredient missing as her confidante.  So resolution will it happen?  You will find out if you see this shortish, 1hr 28min. contemporary psychological treatise.  A lot depends on your own experience in filling in the gaps.

 

John Graham

5 October 2017

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from : 06 October 2017 until 12 October 2017

 

 

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