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Cul-de-sac: 'Don't be scared. I just want your goodness.'
For all the horror films that depend on zombies, vampires, werewolves and the like to place a fantasy make believe world before us to frighten us, none is as terrifying as this very realistic, extraordinarily well written, well photographed, well directed and well acted gem from Film Movement. It is a British product (BBC) and seems to have had a minimal response in the theaters. Now more available to the public, hopefully this brilliant work will attract enough attention to place it in the categories for many awards it so justly deserves. But more important, it may expose many people to the tragedies that surround us and are too often unnoticed or misunderstood.
In North London there are three families whose houses form a cul-de-sac: Archie (Tim Roth, never better) is a single father whose wife left him to raise 11 year old insulin dependent, adventuresome tomboy Skunk (Eloise Laurence) and her brother Jed (Bill Milner) and their housekeeper Kasia (Zana Marjanovic); The Oswalds – Bob (Rory Kinnear) is an out of control easily enraged father of three loose and trashy daughters Susan (Rosalie Kosky), Saskia (Faye Daveney) and Sunrise (Martha Bryant); and the Buckleys – Mr. and Mrs. Buckley (Denis Lawson and Clare Burt) and their severely mentally challenged son Rick (Robert Emms). Bob Oswald finds a condom that one of his daughters had been exploring, jumps to the conclusion that Rick has raped his daughter, and beats Rick mercilessly – a sight Skunk witnesses. This cruel error is the first play in the downward spiral of this profoundly sad tale of how these three families interact. There are a few subplots – Kasia is dating a local school teacher Mike (Cillian Murphy) as well as trying to convince Archie to marry her, Skunk is befriended and has her first rocky encounter with a boy named Dillon (George Sargeant) and they find an empty trailer house by the nearby junkyard where massive machines toss old cars around like unwanted bugs, one of the Oswald girl's secret pregnancy ends badly, Rick Buckley is blamed for every odd happening and is institutionalized, Skunk's friendship with Rick involves her in tragic consequences, and more. Every member of each family is broken in some way and the manner in which these pieces of shattered lives influence each other makes for some of the most profoundly moving scenes and themes ever filmed.
The story is based on the novel by Daniel Clay, adapted for the screen by Mark O'Rowe, and Rufus Norris makes his impressive directing debut. The entire cast is first class – this is the first film experience for Eloise Laurence and she is stunning, as are Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy and the rest. For this viewer this is one of the finest movies of the past year, a film so challenging and exquisitely crafted that it should be seen by everyone. Highly Recommended.
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