Published Jun 28, 2007Both a psychological thriller, with echoes of Hitchcocks Rear Window, and a quiet social realist drama, director Andrea Arnolds exciting debut feature, Red Road, takes on a heavy load and handles it admirably. That is until the film is curbed by its own ambitions, which isnt that difficult, considering all of the stakes involved.
Red Road is the first instalment under the "Advance Party banner a trilogy where three budding directors each contribute a film with the recurring characters and Glasgow locale that have been predetermined by cinema anarchist Lars von Trier and his henchmen Lone Scherfig and Anders Thomas Jensen.
Within these limits, Arnold pieces together the story of CCTV operator Jackie (Kate Dickie), a woman whose hard expressions have been chiselled by an enigmatic tragedy that has left her without a family. Like both director and audience, Jackie toggles away at the controls of her surveillance network, absorbed by the miniscule pleasures of strangers caught on her cameras.
One day Jackie catches sight of Clyde (Tony Curran) on one of her monitors. Released from prison early for good behaviour, Clyde is, possibly, the reason Jackies life is in shambles (though the film wont tell you why until the third act). Driven by obsession, Jackie tracks Clydes every move, embarking on a dangerous game with serious consequences.
Much of the film is delicately balanced, both absorbing the audience into the grey Glaswegian existence and baiting them with the mystery behind Clydes past and Jackies intentions, making for a taut and chilling 90 minutes. Yet, when the film offers up the answers in the heavy final act, you cant help but think that the human drama (and the film as a whole) might have been better served by acknowledging Clydes crime earlier. That way an audience could have appreciated Jackies neatly constructed character arc without being blindsided by the curiously evasive history.
Instead, Red Road seeks to keep the tensions high and the emotions strung beyond their limits. And it almost had it. (Seville)