Take a Drink: for each voyeuristic moment
Take a Drink: for foxes and dogs
Take a Drink: for every burst of unintelligible Scottish nonsense
Take a Drink: whenever Dickie’s obsession with the mysterious men has consequences
Do a Shot: Chaos Reigns!
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
One of the most striking films I saw in the last decade was Fish Tank, both for Katie Jarvis’s incredibly raw and intense performance and Andrea Arnold’s beautiful, immediate direction.
Oh yeah, Michael Fassbender was in it, too…
Since then, I’ve only seen her gorgeous but opaque Wuthering Heights, so it’s high time I checked out the feature film that put her on the map, Red Road. It’s about an closed down CCTV operator (Kate Dickie), who spots a man from her past one day on camera. She becomes obsessed with him, tracking him down and insinuating herself into his life. But why? And to what end?
Red Road is first and foremost an exercise in suspense and atmosphere, and Arnold masterfully delivers both. She made this film adhering to the Danish Dogme 95 philosophy (which Lars Von Trier was the most famous proselytizer for), so she was limited to handheld camerawork and natural light to better represent reality. Even with these restraints, her DP Robbie Ryan shoots a gorgeous film,and the handheld aesthetic plays a large part in bringing the dingy, crumbling Scottish urban setting to life, accentuated by Arnold’s eye for local color, like the Muslim calls to prayer that have become a given feature of British life.
So real you can almost smell it.
As for the suspense, Arnold ably strings us along by grounding it in Dickie’s actions, which make you wonder more and more about her motivations and just what she’s getting herself into. Dickie’s performance draws us in by finding the perfect balance of emotion and enigma, while being brave enough not to play for sympathy. She’s not a heroine, she’s a realistic, complex person. Martin Compston also turns in a daring physical performance, and their sex scene is simultaneously erotic, disturbing, and extremely graphic.
Reason #2 why Von Trier and Charlotte Gainsbourg come to mind.
While the mystery of Dickie’s motivations is entirely engaging, when we find them out they beg a lot of questions, particularly “How do you think you’ll get away with this?” She’s kind of a horrible person when you think about it- irresponsible, detached, and destructive, so in that way the rather happy ending feels somewhat disingenuous.
Red Road is a brutally intense story of the effects of tragedy and the price of forgiveness, leavened with just the right amount of optimism.