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A descent into Hell is triggered when "Ex-Lord" Donald Brocklebank finds that he must leave Longleigh House for London to find a way to pay for the medical treatments for his wife Nancy. Alone, his over-protected, delusional, adult son, James, fancies himself in charge of the manor house with his terminally ill mother, and barricades the two of them into the house for a series of ever more panicked home treatments, mistakenly protecting her from the arrival of Nurse Mary and any outside help. Written by
The film is dedicated to the memory of Sheila and David Rumley, parents of director Simon Rumley. Three months after his father had passed away from a heart attack, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. She died three months later. See more »
Hello? Hello? Yes, yes I know. No, I didn't know that. No, that's not good at all. No, she doesn't know. Hmm. Hmm. Exactly. Okay, goodbye.
They going to make it?
No, they're not.
Can I look after mummy this time.
I'm not going away.
But you always say that, you always do.
Some one's at the door!
Stop James, I said stop!
[...] See more »
'The Living and the Dead' portrays the lives of a British noble, his wife and their adult son set in a spectacular country estate. The good days are long past. The estate is in disrepair and at risk of forfeiture, the wife bedridden most of the film and the son clinically psychotic. That sums up the bulk of what can be said with relative certainty about the plot.
The rest is a tumbling mash of conflicting alternate realities, displaced time-lines, hallucinatory visions and fast motion. Director/writer/producer Simon Rumley loves the fast motion. Leo Bill as the son spends much of the film at ten-fold speed, racing through vast expanses of interior, arms and face animated in a failed attempt to impart the viewer his perspective. It doesn't work, quickly growing tiresome and obvious. Rumley's so committed to the technique that clouds, the advancing sun, branches, vehicles, doctors and nurses eventually join the fray. Repeatedly. It's difficult to comprehend why since it has no bearing on the quiet desperation Rumley's grasping at, instead evoking the feel of an Eighties music video or a VW commercial.
It's symptomatic of the film's jettisoning coherency for atmosphere. The first half contradicts the back with no hint of resolution offered. The son proves more criminally insane than clinically yet no reason offered why he wasn't institutionalized. Early in the film when still portrayed as a happy idiot the father is constantly abusive and stern. Fatherly warmth doesn't appear until unconscionable acts are committed. The son roams free past the point any modern Western nation would have seen him incarcerated. We never know why. Likewise the rest of the plot is so artificial and bent to the requirements of intense moments all believability is lost and with it any concern for the characters. The one bright spot is Kate Fahy's terrific portrayal of the wife. She creates the few and fleeting scenes in which the film works as intended. Not content with these minor successes Rumley brushes them aside to make room for more mind-bending plot twists, snatching total failure from the jaws of mediocre success. A movie for the patient only.
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