Charlotte works in the city, and has just learnt that her less-qualified male colleague has been promoted above her. Less than happy, she takes redundancy and wonders how she’s going to fill the rest of her life. Childless, she’s devoted her whole life to her career, lives in a modern, characterless flat and is very alone. But what follows is far from a churned-out tale of the modern women, forced to choose between a family and her job, struggling against the vein of patriarchy that is still so apparent in modern society. It certainly challenges these issues, albeit in an almost surreal way.
The film works well as a study of the internal conflict within human beings, our ability to transform and adapt, to give in to our desires, to be deceitful, to conform and to completely and utterly lose control. Reeves makes a good attempt at exploring this idea, but unfortunately doesn’t quite pull it off.
The biggest problem with the film, and one that really lets it down, is that tonally, the film doesn’t really know what it’s trying to be. It begins in the style of a TV drama with very little cinematic quality, but as Charlotte’s life begins to unravel, it shifts to what looks to be a promising, dark allegory, revealing the dark depths of the female psyche and the pressures of women to fit in to a particular role within society. However it quickly loses it’s way, and morphs into a bizarre, low-budget-style thriller.
There are scenes of graphic violence on a couple of occasions, and it’s hard as viewer to understand exactly how we’re meant to respond; it’s incredibly uncomfortable. When watching a thriller, there’s a general understanding that, rightly or wrongly, the violence is meant to generate excitement, but when the tone is so patchy and the viewer initially understands that the violence is meant to be taken seriously, when everything changes and starts to follow the conventions of a thriller, it doesn’t quite work, and totally devalues what was actually the strongest part of the entire piece.
The cast, however, are absolutely outstanding. The ever-faultless Maxine Peake shines as Charlotte. Her rigid, cold exterior makes her hard to figure out initially, lulling the audience in to a false sense of security until she switches, flitting between deranged psychopath and back to stony-faced ice-queen. The film is worth watching just for Peake alone. Blake Harrison is also terrific, although the less said about his character at this stage the better. Christine Bottomley also makes an appearance as Charlotte’s trusting, wide-eyed sister, and is the perfect antidote to Peake’s harsh coldness.
It’s a real shame that the film doesn’t quite deliver on what is a solid, interesting idea that sadly just loses it’s way too early on. It’s certainly does enough to make it worth watching, and it’ll be interesting to see what Reeves does next.