Though we all like to think of ourselves as unique beings, as someone special, there are a few unavoidable facets of cliche that chain us all together. For example, what do we do to cope after going through a rough break-up? Do we not all latch on strongly to certain music, usually songs that are maudlin or over-meaningful to our current state? Do we not take those physical objects that they left behind, otherwise insignificant things, and hold them closer than ever before? Do we not take the emotional scars they left behind and use them to create something, a work as much theirs as it is your own? Do we not run to something new – a place or a person? Do we not pretend that they’re dead, or at least hope? And eventually, through all of these methods do we not, somehow, embrace and expel their lingering presence and finally move on? I think we do. The pain may feel like the deepest ever cut in the moment, but its nothing that everyone you walk past everyday hasn’t also felt. So it is that we should all be able to relate to Lynne Ramsay’s film, as it is quite simply a strangely literal re-telling of all these tropes; unfortunately though this is not the case.
Like all stories centered around break-up’s this is a deeply personal film but the titular protagonist’s particular story is truly a tragic one as we are shown straight away by those bestially beautiful opening shots. Though it is clear to our eyes the film never makes the point to our emotions; we can see the story but we cannot ever feel it. This is because we are never allowed in Movern’s mind during the course of the movie; though the film still stops in most scenes to show her thinking, we are not privy to what any of those thoughts are. This would be an alienating enough trait at the best of times but here, with a character as un-collarable as Callar it is a tragic flaw; without these insights into her journey she comes across as an alien figure, so mercurial a maiden is she.
This perspective is not helped by Lynne’s direction; though she has shot the film stunningly; utilizing a unique set of audio / visual combinations to create both the feel of a fairytale and an over-authentic Neo-realist fable simultaneously. While on the surface, quite literally in this case, this is a good thing, nay a great one, it tends to push Morvern further and further away from us as the film progresses; to the point that I almost felt as if I had known her better before the film had begun, based solely on the back of the box synopsis.I think that starting us off with the wounded Callar is a dangerous move because it means that we simply cannot understand how much the character has changed, only that she is unstable now.
I don’t like to keep harping on about context in each and every critical review but it is something that this film definately lacks. Had we seen Caller before she was cornered, before the first major driving event -her boyfriends shock suicide – had taken place, than her journey and transformation would have at least meant something to me on a visceral level; as it stands though they simply sit empty-shelled. Had I not made the connection between all of Callar’s strange behaviors as being symptomatic of a break-up then I don’t know what I would have thought about all her goings on.
Much like Tree of Life this film works well as a series of sounds and images – though it would make a much less impressive screensaver – but falls apart when seen through the prism of ‘film’; which is unfortunate because there are some singularly great scenes and some portentous ideas preening under the surface, the film is just too enigmatic in its impressionism to truly catalyze their reactions and crack them open. Though the credits have rolled and the disk has been slid away into storage I don’t feel empty: nor do I feel the desire to sing-along sadly with a Smiths song or write some emotive poetry about my now broken heart and this makes me sad because I want to miss the movie, but the truth is that I just wasn’t that into it.
(Though I still have great hope for We Need To Talk About Kevin, Ramsay’s next film, though and hope very much to see its name on the list of MIFF titles dropped later tonight.)