Review by Rich Cline | 4/5   MUST must see SEE

harrison, russell, brown, goldsberry
dir-scr Trey Edward Shults
prd Trey Edward Shults, Kevin Turen, James Wilson
with Kelvin Harrison Jr, Taylor Russell, Lucas Hedges, Sterling K Brown, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Alexa Demie, Clifton Collins Jr, Neal Huff, Vivi Pineda, David Garelik, Joshua Brockington, Harmony Korine
release US 15.Nov.19,
UK 17.Jan.20
19/US A24 2h16

hedges brown collins
london film fest

There are moments in this ambitious film that evoke the wrenching dread of Aronofsky's addiction horror Requiem for a Dream, as it seems things can't get worse, and then they do. But filmmaker Trey Edward Shults has something else in mind, revealing a group of people going through a series of harrowing situations, then exploring the changes to their characters as a result. This is a shocking, challenging film.
In Miami, 18-year-old Tyler (Harrison) is a star wrestler on his high school team. But he is pushed ruthlessly by his father Ronald (Brown), who wallows in toxic masculinity to compensate for the fact that his wife Cath (Goldsberry) is more successful than he is. Their younger daughter Emily (Russell) watches this warily. And no one quite realises the pressure this puts on Tyler, who hides an injury and secretly becomes addicted to opioid painkillers. He also tells no one that he's freaking out that his girlfriend Alexis (Demie) might be pregnant.
Shults' script piles the troubles of Job on this bright young man, a gifted athlete who plays piano and clearly loves life until it crashes around him. The film feels almost overpowering from the start, with richly colour-washed images by cinematographer Drew Daniels and a pulsating score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. It's edited as a barrage of close-ups that reveals both the story and the characters' inner feelings. And even as it feels indulgent, Shults knows how to slow things down to capture a subtle shift.

This explosive story is anchored by raw, transparent turns from Harrison and Russell. Tyler and Emily are complex good kids who sometimes do bad things. And their relationships are just as textured, especially with Brown's harshly demanding dad and Goldsberry's nurturing mum. Hedges is also terrific as one of Tyler's wrestling buddies who later takes Emily on a journey that's all her own.

With its series of false endings, there are moments when it feels like this movie is overlong, and the running time certainly could have been tightened. But the shifting stages of the narrative continually take the viewer in unexpected directions, leading to a remarkably resonant exploration of the legacy of guilt and the need for forgiveness. This may feel oddly cathartic after the nightmare these characters have been through, but it's still messy and thoughtful. And it reminds us that people can't be divided into good or evil: we're simply human.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 26.Nov.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall