Thursday, 21 October 2010

Review of Wetherby...

A quietly disturbing, beautifully written meditation on alienation in Thatcher's Britain. They really don't make 'em like this anymore. They didn't make many of them then.

This is a story of loneliness, about the unbridgeable gaps between people. It is quiet and it is savage; full of unspoken/unspeakable moments a furious drunken Soliquising. And while it is unmistakably a period piece now it is also a timeless study on what it means to "live a life of quiet desperation"; or what it is to be English.

Vanessa Redgrave, in a TOWERING performance, plays Jean Travers, a teacher in the Yorkshire suburb of Wetherby. A drunken dinner party she holds for her friends is attended by John Morgan (Tim McInnerny) an enigmatic young man whom she assumes is a guest of Marcia, (Judi Dench) her best friend. Shortly afterwards he returns to her house carrying a pair of dead pheasants and without warning commits suicide in front of her at her kitchen table.

So there is a puzzle at the centre of "Wetherby" - why did Morgan choose to shoot himself in front of Jean? Was it the desperate act of a lonely man looking for any sense of connection. The police investigation reveals that Morgan was obsessed with local librarian Karen Creasy (Suzanna Hamilton) described by Jean as "the sort of girl people become obsessed with" but known to Marcia for her "central disfiguring blankness". Karen invites herself to live with Jean for the next few days until a tense confrontation sends the young woman away.

This is a film about emptiness and dislocation, about one generations inability to interact with another: the drunken ranting post war generation and the numbed separateness of Thatcher's babies. This dislocation is reflected in the film non-linear structure too, and in the haunting parallel narrative of Jean's doomed romance with an Air Man.

This is a quiet film, intercut with splenetic ranting, a simple human story, striated with shadows thrown forward and back, colouring, shaping and obfuscating. And it is simply a classic of English cinema from a time when English cinema was about to stop.

No comments:

Post a Comment