17 October 2013 10:58 AM, PDT | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

A raw, inconsolable anguish cuts through the artfully scrambled layers of “Southcliffe,” an uneven but powerful four-part study of a small English village reeling from the all-too-believable tragedy of a mass shooting. Following his masterful 2011 debut feature, “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” director Sean Durkin employs the miniseries format to tell another bleak, violent story that drifts backward and forward through time, examining the brief buildup to horror and its prolonged aftermath from a multitude of telling angles. Unsurprisingly, Durkin has a trickier time processing an entire community’s grief than he did probing an individual’s trauma in “Martha Marcy,” but if the narrative imprecisions and nonlinear construction feel a bit less assured here, the performances nonetheless show a searing level of commitment that sustains this swift, absorbing 190-minute work from start to finish.

Well received in its airings in the U.K. before its recent North American premiere at Toronto, »

- Justin Chang

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