When a film begins with the image of several cattle carcasses burning on a bonfire, it becomes instantly clear what sort of production lays ahead, and tonally, Joseph Bull and Luke Seomore’s pensive, moving drama Blood Cells does not disappoint. Though while this intense, candid character study may be tough to watch in parts, there’s an ineffable beauty to this stylistic endeavour, that makes for an absorbing, compelling tale.

Taking place a decade after his father’s death, Adam (Barry Ward) is neither here nor there. Flirting between his girlfriend’s place in London, to his cousin’s in Sheffield – this self-destructive man wanders around aimlessly, putting off returning home where his brother has just had a child. Wherever Adam does venture, however, he can be seen in the same, worn down attire, with a can in one hand and a fag in the other – befriending school children or stealing drinks at a stranger’s 18th birthday party. He’s got issues, and there doesn’t seem to be any foreseeable means of erasing them.

The representation of this protagonist is a brilliantly subtle one, veering away from any sense of cliché. The caricature of a ‘waster’ is far away from Adam’s image – as he’s clean shaven, well-spoken, wearing a shirt and possessing an infectious charm and charisma. On the surface he seems to be doing okay, just as people like this often do. In fact, we don’t know an awful lot about Adam, as his past remains somewhat elusive. But he’s such a remarkably well-crafted character and brought to life so emphatically by Ward, that you feel entwined with him. We’ve all met people like this before, and yet in spite of that, he remains a nuanced, idiosyncratic creation.

It’s a truly accomplished study of his demise, a sad portrait of his life. It does feel at times that there’s too much going on, as we veer into the realm of the melodrama – but then this feels like a plausible week for somebody like him, and you imagine next week will consist of much of the same thing. Meanwhile, it’s not just Ward who excels either, as the supporting cast do more than their bit, which helps tremendously, and never takes you out of the story. That can often be a worry with modest, indie productions, as they can attract a talented performer for the lead but struggle to fill the more insignificant roles with those who can act – but not in this case. Instead they belong to the likes of Francis Magee, Hayley Squires, Jimmy Akingbola and Chloe Pirrie – the latter in particular standing out, while it proves the strength of the screenplay at hand, and the faith in the directors’ vision, that an actor such as her would sign on in spite of the lack of screen time.

No matter where Adam wanders, be it a seaside town, the city or a farm in the country, we always get a sense for his environment, as a visceral piece that maintains an ambiance that always evokes the feeling of the setting he’s in. And if you want to comprehend this tale further, and try and get a feeling for what Bull and Seomore are trying to convey, it’s worth seeking out a track entitled The Brink by British band I am Kloot – as it perfectly encapsulates our protagonist’s story.