A 21-year-old girl walks through a crowded, sweaty nightclub, gliding across the dance floor as if she's the only person there. She doesn't hear the pounding music because she's wearing a Walkman. She has her own soundtrack. This is Morvern Callar (Samantha Morton), a character unlike any other, in an intriguing movie which seemingly invites you out of the cold and into this young woman's world, only to leave you shivering at the doorway.
Morvern is laconic, unlikeable and, at first, second and third glance, morally challenged. When her boyfriend commits suicide one Christmas, she doesn't cry or call for help. Instead, she uses his death as the perfect escape route from her dreary smalltown existence on the west Scottish coast. To explain much more would spoil the plot - - assuming you haven't read Alan Warner's excellent source novel. Suffice to say that the second half whisks both the newly empowered Morvern and her friend Lanna (Kathleen McDermott) to the Costa Del Crap on an 18-30-style holiday.
Director Lynne Ramsay proved her visual prowess with the beautiful-but-bleak Ratcatcher, so it's no surprise to find that Morvern Callar is eye-absorbing, whether we're immersed in the gloom of Morvern's hometown or basking in the skin-searing Spanish sun. Ramsay has particularly nailed the oppressive concrete artificiality of the Brit resort, portraying the girls' holiday destination as a horror-houseof enforced hedonism - yet another place for Morvern to escape from.
But Ramsay's sophomore pic has something over her debut: Morton. With Sweet And Lowdown and Minority Report, the Nottingham-born actress has displayed an unerring ability for portraying expressive people while relying on little or no dialogue. Her performance here is impressively spot-on, managing to give just enough hints as to what makes Morvern tick without ever revealing the clockwork. Morton ensures that we may not like Morvern, or approve of her, but we at least come close to understanding her. Which, given the nature of Morvern's actions, is a laudable feat.