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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Ludwig Shammasian, Paul Shammasian
scr Geoff Thompson
prd Sheetal Vinod Talwar, Mark Lane, James Harris, Jasper Graham
with Orlando Bloom, Janet Montgomery, Charlie Creed-Miles, Anne Reid, Alex Ferns, James Smillie, India Fowler, Rory Nolan, Bill Fellows, Charlotte Powell, Kyle Rees, Rosalyn Wright
release UK Jul.17 eiff,
17/UK Saban 1h35
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There's a churning tone to this dark drama, which explores the lingering fallout after childhood sexual abuse. The Shammasian brothers direct the film with sensitivity and unnerving honesty, drawing out one of Orlando Bloom's strongest performances. While the film may feel dense and somewhat murky, the narrative takes an unusually layered approach to the topic, as well as a number of provocative turns, including one that's definitely over the top.
While working on a demolition crew at a local Catholic church, Malky (Bloom) is revisited by painful memories of the priest (Smillie) who abused him as a child. Both his mother (Reid) and his girlfriend Emma (Montgomery) wonder why he's become so hotheaded, but he keeps his feelings to himself. Haunted, he begins to stalk the priest, who's working at a new church his mother is attending. As the pressure builds, it's clear that something has to give. But Malky has always found it impossible to trust anyone with this particular truth.
The story's dramatic intensity immediately pulls the audience in, taking a grounded, human approach to a difficult topic. Thompson's script knowingly grapples with the deep-rooted scars of assault, especially on men who are taught never to show weakness. The way Malky's past creeps into his present life is insidious, leading to horrific self-abuse and blindly lashing out at anyone who happens to be nearby. Powerfully, he begins to understand that revenge isn't what he needs.
Bloom brings edgy energy to a role that runs deep, letting the audience into Malky's warped sense of identity and sexuality. His fragile self-image is remarkably resonant, as he tries to hide his pain from those who care about him. Montgomery is excellent as Malky's perplexed, patient girlfriend, while both Fern and Creed-Miles stand out as, respectively, an old friend who owes Malky his life and a demo crew coworker who knows his pain. And Reid shines as always in a gritty, complex role as Malky's rattled mother.
The story unfolds in an internalised way that keeps it from being predictable, even as it circles around the usual thematic issues, including the repercussions of trauma and the contradictions between faith and religion. There are several bleakly wrenching scenes along the way, as Makly is pushed to the brink, where he has no choice but to face up to his past. As one character says, sometimes all you need is someone who will listen. Leave the vengeance to God.
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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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