A sleek slice of promis­ing Lon­don noir

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

STILL ★★★ Di­rected by Simon Blake. Star­ring Ai­dan Gillen, Jonathan Slinger, Elodie Yung, Amanda Meal­ing. Club, IFI, Dublin, 97 min

This fas­ci­nat­ing fea­ture de­but from Simon Blake spends much of its du­ra­tion work­ing out what it wants to be: do­mes­tic drama, Lon­don noir, so­cial-re­al­ist tragedy. The film never quite finds an an­swer, but the will­ing­ness to try on so many metaphor­i­cal hats is re­fresh­ing in it­self.

An in­tense, an­gu­lar Ai­dan Gillen plays Carver, a pho­tog­ra­pher who, living in an el­e­gantly dis­tressed part of Kings Cross, is cop­ing in­dif­fer­ently with the re­cent death of his son. His es­tranged wife vis­its. He makes friends with a young boy who also has an in­ter­est in photography. Thugs gather about his house and push un­pleas­ant ma­te­rial through the let­ter­box. Ev­ery two steps to­wards emo­tional re­cov­ery are fol­lowed by at least one back­wards.

The film is very good on the pres­sures of mod­ern city life and the way grief colours even the most mun­dane cor­ners of ex­is­tence. Al­ways good when at his most in­tense, Gillen does a fine job of rep­re­sent­ing a psy­che that is yel­low­ing to­ward jaun­dice.

If the pic­ture does have a prob­lem it is to do with its need to keep cool. Carver’s flat looks to have been de­cay­ing un­touched since 1992: he has an old-school ana­logue an­swer­ing ma­chine and many an­cient hard­backs. When we are not lis­ten­ing to jazz, we are pon­der­ing the hero’s achingly hip col­lec­tion of post-punk records: Sta­tion to Sta­tion, Metal Box, Trans-Europe Ex­press. (Let’s just pre­tend that there’s no pos­si­bil­ity he’s named for Ray­mond Carver and move on.)

Fair enough. Like a first-time nov­el­ist, the de­but direc­tor has the right to work in a few per­sonal in­ter­ests and ob­ses­sions.

In Still, Blake demon­strates a sharp eye for con­struct­ing at­trac­tive off-cen­tre images and a gift for teas­ing out strong per­for­mances. Hard-ass English di­rec­tors such as Mike Hodges would surely sense their in­flu­ence in is work. Very promis­ing stuff.

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