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Morvern Callar
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Morvern Callar More at IMDbPro »

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An Odd Woman's Odd, Beautiful Looking Journey to Personal Freedom

Author: noralee from Queens, NY
19 January 2006

"Morvern Caller is an odd, sometimes out and out bizarre, journey of a woman seeking freedom.

A naïve young supermarket clerk gets her world shaken to its very foundations, goes into a kind of shock and seizes the opportunity to reinvent her life, symbolically at the New Year.

At one point her best friend asks "Are you from another planet?" and that may be as good as any other explanation we get for her behavior. At first I thought she might be developmentally disabled, then maybe a female take on a "Chauncey Gardiner" in "Being There"-type idiot savant. (One of the ongoing amusements is how she handles lying, by giving a factually correct answer that is minus context that would change its meaning.) She didn't quite seem to be sociopathic, but revenge of some kind seemed to be some kind of motivator for an extreme carpe diem for a passive person suddenly freed of all attachments.

At least as presented by director/co-adapter Lynne Ramsay of Alan Warner's novel, we get absolutely no background on her life before we see her stretched out on the floor of her flat next to her immobile boyfriend. But does she change inside as she spends money and goes to different places? What she clearly revels in the most is just running free in nature. Morton's titular character's joy in the natural landscape is palpable, particularly her communing with fellow drudge ants, but that frequently seems to be her only motivation. Morton is excellent at conveying a nonverbal character, but I still wondered if she was just crazy or what.

As she sets out on her picaresque travels from Scotland to Spain, I thought at one point she was actually going to connect with a nice seeming young man who was also going through a personal crisis, but that just turned into a jolly rolling around a hotel room session. She then veers with no explanation on a truly odd escapade through Spain, including a puzzling Hemingwayesque viewing of the running of the bulls of Pamplona. While this may have something to do with her posing as a novelist, it may have some sort of irony about this macho event as a feminist coming out. At least the image of hanging off fences to avoid the crowds is memorable.

Even as viewed on DVD, the film is full of incongruous and gorgeous images, including showing all of an uncharacteristically long-haired Samantha Morton, with a focus on her wide blues eyes and pliable face.

Even if the character's arc doesn't quite make sense, Ramsey has filmed evocative individual scenes. The best friends' interaction perfectly captures intense female relationships. Scenes in a pub and rave well capture the party environment. The hotel scenes in Spain well capture the kind of escapist holiday groups with which the budget flight attendants on the TV series "Mile High" have to deal. We see repeating visual motifs of Morton in long vistas of urban and desolate roads and hallways.

Given how key music is to one character, with a running visual theme of a mix tape having been prepared and being played, the music is not very demonstrative or illustrative, perhaps due to a limited budget.

Added 3/17/06: Having just read the very creatively expressive, somewhat bizarre, first person book, I do understand the maturing title character a bit more than one gets just from the adaptation. The invented bulls-running sequence makes even less sense and the limitation of music even more sorely missing. But at least the constant male-leering bathing, showering and swimming in the book is minimized in the film, though Warner's wry term of constantly using plague as an adjective for males also doesn't come through, as in general the film can't convey the power of Warner's vernacular, just the situations he has conjured.

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