Red Road review

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A blistering sex scene where primal passion is accompanied by foxes’ cries on the soundtrack? Red Road’s most potent moment is hardly reflective of the austere, oppressive two hours hinted at by the Dogme-style rules of its Scottish/Danish co-producers, The Advance Party...

1. Three different directors will be responsible for three separate films.

2. Each work must share the same characters, actors and settings.

3. Each film must be shot within a six-week period.

Written and directed by British Oscar-winner Andrea Arnold (who won for her short film, Wasp, in 2005), Red Road is first in the trilogy. It’s a stark, riveting revenge drama that proves how artistic restrictions can be creatively liberating.

Jackie is the movie’s Rear Window-style obsessive observer, blankly monitoring a bank of security cameras which allow her to zoom in and out of strangers’ daily lives. The early scenes establish her emotional numbness (lives alone, joyless sex with a married male colleague in his van once a fortnight). But when she decides to pursue Clyde, tailing him back to his estate where he hangs out with a younger couple, Stevie (Martin Compston) and April (Nathalie Press), before gatecrashing one of his parties, Arnold shows a real ability to generate and maintain suspense.

While the exact nature of the tragic events connecting the couple is held off until the very climax, Robbie Ryan’s unerring cinematography picks out the graffitied walls and heaps of rubbish, emphasising the sense of menace in and around the tower blocks of the title. And, despite the setting’s bleakness and regular use of washed-out CCTV imagery, Arnold frames her subjects with compassion, not detachment.

Powerfully acted by all and, quite rightly, something of a slowburn word-of-mouth hit at this year’s Cannes, Red Road deserves to be viewed as part of a compelling tradition of British films by female directors – including Carine Adler’s Under The Skin and Lynne Ramsay’s Morvern Callar – which also focus on bereaved individuals and are unafraid to explore the dark complexities of female sexual desire. Compulsive.

A knockout debut. This is controlled, humane and saturated in suspense, with compelling performances from Dickie and Curran.

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