Following the untimely death of her daughter, Anglican priest Rebecca Ashton (Catherine McCormack) leaves the city for a less demanding life in the country, where she forms a peculiar, somewhat contentious relationship with the troubled teenage immigrant Radka (Marina Stoimenova). The closer the pair become the more questions are asked from the concerned locals, as it becomes increasingly clear than Rebecca is vying to fill a void left in her life by her deceased child, intent on replacing her, despite having another daughter of her own to care for, in Eloise (Dakota Blue Richards).
With a refreshing attempt at more minimalist, ambiguous storytelling, regrettably Jencks’ resourceful approach is compromised by his inclination for unsubtly. In spite of the equivocal nature of the narrative, and the sparse implementing of dialogue, the notion that less can often be more is one disregarded in several instances. That’s not to say that on the most part this isn’t a nuanced piece of cinema, as there’s a poignancy beneath the surface, as the way Rebecca craves this companionship with Radka is moving, while her forgotten daughter Eloise, impressively portrayed by Richards, provides a fascinating depth to proceedings.
McCormack is stunning as our lead, playing this layered role with the intensity it so desires. There’s a real fragility to her demeanour too, which is simply absorbing. Unfortunately such commendation cannot be extended to all members of the supporting cast, as some of those in smaller, less significant roles are not of the required standard, and their scenes, no matter how inconsequential, take you out of the story somewhat. On a more positive note, the music is implemented intelligently, with live performances from within the title making up much of the score, adding to the rather morbid ambiance, in a similar technique to what Terence Davies achieved with The Deep Blue Sea.
Though Jencks can certainly be accused of spoon-feeding his audience on occasion, he still manages to keep you compelled, and though made on just a modest sized budget, this first-time endeavour for the director ensures there is certainly a lot to be admired in this creative, accomplished piece of filmmaking.