It creeps up on you this one. Set in Nottingham, and following a young man called Russell (Tom Cullen) who seems a bit shy, it starts out with loud party scenes, little moments glimpsed at a party then a bar that Russell heads off towards, such that I spent part of the film just wondering if the sound mix was right (these are all loud environments, drowning out the words to a certain extent). But this is a film about people who can’t quite make out what the other wants, or are trying to protect themselves in ways that put emotional distance in their relationship, even as their every other fibre seems to be screaming for something closer and more intense. The actors do a great job in conveying this push and pull while director Andrew Haigh finds these moments that seem to encapsulate the drama, until at length the two just talk to one another. There are no big redemptive moments or melodramatic changes of heart, but you sense there’s feeling between the two that won’t go away immediately, and an openness that gives them both a little bit of extra strength in a world where you register small moments quite piercingly. For example, just one that comes to mind, there’s a scene of Russell standing on a tram on his way to meet Glen (Chris New), and he’s near some younger kids making fun of gay people, and we observe him just subtly taking off his flatcap and altering his body language to try and make himself blend into the background more; the film is filled with little moments like that, suggestive of their situation for observant viewers to pick up. It’s a film of small wonders, made on a small budget but with plenty to recommend it.
FILM REVIEW: Criterion Collection
Director/Writer Andrew Haigh; Cinematographer Ula Pontikos; Starring Tom Cullen, Chris New; Length 97 minutes.
Seen at home (DVD), Melbourne, Tuesday 7 March 2023.