Forgotten Friday Flick – “Red Road”

Forgotten Friday FlickReady for another dose of past Friday film fare still firmly planted in the foreign section?  Then welcome back to Forgotten Friday Flick!  Today we’re hitting the first delectable British feature of a talented female filmmaker who had at the time already won an Oscar.  (Best Live Action Short for Wasp people!)  It combines the classic qualities of a taunt suspenseful thriller with heartbreaking human drama for a movie that arrests at every terrific turn. Loss, obsession and facing demons of the past – let’s head down…Red Road!

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Jackie Morrison is a lonely woman trying to forget her past and have no attachments in her future.  She sees little of family, has uneventful trysts with a married colleague every once in a while and generally keeps to herself by living alone.  But her true passion and dedication comes in the form of her job as a CCTV security operator in Glasgow; she watches multiple TV screens and examines and polices the lives of various strangers throughout the community for safety.  But one day she spots a familiar face, a man and she realizes all she’s worked so hard to forget simply won’t stay buried anymore.

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This where all description stops as half the genius of Red Road lies in the multitude of story twists and turns that make for a memorable ride.  The film manages to surprise even on genre levels, starting as a thriller, moving to a revenge picture and then turning into a tale of redemption all without seeming forced – it’s richly complex and brilliant.  You’ll notice I said half the genius, as there’s much more to Red Road than merely being a first-rate yarn.  Director Andrea Arnold manages to not only take a full page out the Hitchcock handbook creating a film that’s a ‘can’t take your eyes off it mind f@ck’ (and I mean that in a good way!), but she shows a real gift for exposing the inner life of her frail and fragile characters warts and all.  (It’s a talent she continued to master in future films like Fish Tank and Wuthering Heights!)  Fortunately her entire cast is also up to the task and it’s the final piece that makes Red Road complete.  From Tony Curran as the mysterious gent of Jackie’s fascination to Martin Compston as a local young hothead everyone works effortlessly to get Arnold’s varying tones just right.

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But inevitably the film has to belong to the character of Jackie and thanks to one pitch-perfect piece of work it definitely does.  Arnold’s maven muse of choice is the riveting and raw Kate Dickie who carefully morphs and layers her heartbreaking turn, beat by beat, just as skillfully as the script itself. Its way more than a performance – it’s a dissection and presentation of a complex character that embodies sadness, anger, lust and loss laid boldly barren for all to see.  (A feat for any actor for sure!)

The film was largely shot in Lars von Trier’s Dogme 95 style and was to be part of a projected trilogy titled Advanced Party with its own set of filmmaking rules, but for the sake of Red Road I’m more than comfortable to leave such technical aspects as a mere afterthought.  As a stunning stand-alone piece of cinema, Arnold and company made a five-star film that – rules and regulations aside – stands the test of time. I was always bummed that Arnold never chose to include a much-desired commentary track on the old Tartan DVD to help enlighten her clever choices, but now I think perhaps the MIA director wanted us to draw our own conclusions from the finished product.  Naive, maybe, but Red Road just feels like a film that frankly shouldn’t be explained – it should be experienced.

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I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

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