DIR: CORRIE GREENOP
WRITTEN: CORRIE GREENOP
STARRING: CARINA BIRRELL, DAVID WAYMAN, CAMERON JACK
RUN TIME: 70min
Corrie Greenop’s début feature is another pleasing example of how bright the star seems to be shining for independent British horror at the moment. Well- constructed, and stunningly photographed it is a sometimes disorienting and often unnerving thriller that captures the dark confusion of the human mind as it unravels.
Rose and Theo travel to the Scottish Highlands to rekindle their relationship. Rose is in the early stages of pregnancy and Theo sees this as the perfect opportunity for some together time before the impending child changes things forever. However things are far from perfect as Rose seems resistive of his advances and the relationship becomes increasingly strained as the trip goes on. Add to this the mysterious visions of a young girl only Rose can see and the sinister officer Thwaites and the stage is set for a journey into one person’s madness.
Tremendously atmospheric and making the most of its Highland locations, Wandering Rose proves to be a chilling piece of cinema that takes a relatively simple central idea and spins a complex emotional web around its characters. Rose and Theo’s relationship is well written, and the film carefully reveals layers as it goes adding an unsettling undercurrent to proceedings. The suggestion that nothing is as it seems keeps the tension high, and whilst the late reveals are hardly revelatory they do pack quite a powerful punch.
It’s a surprisingly claustrophobic affair too with Greenop and James Fuller’s photography casting the Scottish countryside in an eerie gloom. Here, despite their vast expanse, the Highlands feel like they are closing in on the characters, a shrinking prison for their failing relations. Scotland has always had a strange almost paranormal personality and the film exploits this incredibly well. However, as the film goes on it starts to become a little on the over indulgent side and the excess of location shots starts to look like padding; there to extend the running time rather than add to the atmosphere or drive the plot forward. It’s a small complaint though as the film never looks less than stunning.
The sound design is also excellent, using simple but well placed atmospherics to underline the films sense of creeping dread. An understated musical score sits in the background and the movie resists loud bangs and sharp shocks, instead choosing to build genuine tension. It is likely to alienate the passive film fan looking for a quick easy thrill, but the careful, considerate approach is one of the films major strengths. It is not often that film makers have the courage to resist the market and do what is ultimately right for their film, but here that is what Greenhop does.
Ultimately it is a character driven film, and there are very strong performances from the main cast. Carina Birrell as Rose carries the film well. Her haunted self-absorption is the films anchor and Birrell’s performance, rather than alienating, manages to bring you into and feel for the character. David Wayman has probably the more difficult role as Theo. Theo is the archetypal good guy who is always trying to do what’s best but is often left out in the cold. It could easily have been a cardboard role, but Wayman gives Theo depth and adds some dark flourishes to the character that make the later scenes all the more harrowing. Cameron Jack’s Officer Thwaites is also worth a mention. He isn’t in the film very much, but when he is he changes the dynamic and further unbalances the equilibrium of the central couple. His performance is creepily ambiguous and you are never quite sure if he can be trusted.
The film works incredibly hard to stay tight and to build its characters and story. But for all its hard work it ultimately falls at the final hurdle. In trying to bring together all of its loose ends the film becomes confused; Its final revelations are flagged a little early and don’t quite hold together. It doesn’t end disastrously it just winds down rather than building to a big dramatic crescendo. In fairness it wouldn’t have been appropriate for the film to end with everything tied up in a neat bow, but it doesn’t quite make enough sense to be fully satisfying.
Whatever its minor shortcomings, Wandering Rose proves to be a compelling chiller that gets under the skin in a way that few films often do. Dark and broody, it deals with some heavy duty themes like Abortion and Suicide, and like other recent Brit effort Claire (Kuru) captures the complex emotions and mental frailty of human relationships and child birth. Bold and shocking it is a film that deserves an audience.