Dir. Jon Sanders, UK Germany Austria, 2010, Dur. 87 mins
Cast: Anna Mottram, Richard Vanstone, Charlotte Palmer,
Review by Carlie Newman
Unfortunately, this film is not very pleasurable to watch. The director needs to learn from Mike Leigh that, while improvisation is fine, when it comes to shooting the film then at that point a scripted version that has been well rehearsed is necessary. The concept of the film and the story-line is most interesting; it is just the way it has been carried out that doesn’t work.
We watch a couple in their 60s who have been married for some 40 years bicker over small things. It is the occasion of Ken (Richard Vanstone)’s 65th Birthday party. The older woman Gillian (Anna Mottram) declares that she is lonely and might as well be lonely alone, and does not want to remain in her barren marriage, which is now just routine gestures and a life that she does not enjoy. We see events over a 24 hour period: various people join them for the celebration, which at times feels more like a wake.
Each of the characters has been cheated by a partner or has fallen out of love in some way. There is a widow and her rather miserable piano-playing younger boyfriend, also Ken and Gillian’s daughter who has been left by her husband, and their son bored by his girlfriend and looking for someone new and an older flirt who uses men for pleasure and lastly, the ageing ‘playboy’ type who really wants to form a lasting relationship with someone. He is so desperate, that his feeling of emptiness leads him to drifting away in his small boat. Not that this is remarked on much by the others who sit around a table talking.
There is a lot of sitting and talking in long real-time takes for minutes at a time, in which the camera remains static, and which seem to go on interminably and sometimes it is difficult to see the character who is speaking clearly enough. The sound is not always entirely clear either so that an outside sound will intrude on a conversation.
All the dialogue is improvised by the cast and we often seem to wait while they think through what they have to say or else they are virtually talking over each other. There are some very long pauses that are not meaningful. At the end the mention of the disappearance of the older man in a boat is almost glossed over.
There are some rather strange incidents in the house in Kent where the action takes place – I can’t believe that Gillian, an older woman, would perch on a window sill with a hand-held mirror! The director, Jon Sanders, has some good ideas and the garden of the house is lovely to look at. The actors do their best but need, perhaps, to be directed in a more purposeful way so that the audience can become more involved in – what could be – the interesting lives of the characters on the screen.