Friday, July 26, 2013

Catchup review: RED ROAD

A woman locks herself in a toilet, unzips, takes a used condom out of her bag and squeezes the semen out of it on to her fingers which she then inserts into her vagina. This is suggested rather than graphic but the stark white light of the scene. There is a clumsy rush to the action. She has planned this but is surprised by the mechanics of it. This substance she is more than familiar with doesn't play nice. Soon it's over her jeans and the bathroom towels. Then she does something that I won't spoil that seals her actions. She has just come from a scene of strongly consensual sex (which a moment's exception which she has planted).

This is Jackie. She earns a living monitoring the mass of CCTV camera feeds around a huge Glasgow housing estate. Her job uses this safe distance to adjudge appropriate action over the great dispossessed mass that she mostly knows only as a chequerboard of gluggy video tones.Her home is much nicer, a bungalow in the middle class neighbourhoods with a garden she has elected to ruin naturally.We learn that she is in conflict with her in laws but not why. Otherwise her leisure is divided between publicly served pleasures and privately stolen thumping trysts with a married coworker in the back of his SUV.

One pleasure she finds in her job but keeps to herself is the opportunity to follow the patchworked narratives of the people on the estate. One middle aged man is going through the slow decline of his obviously well loved dog. At one point she ventures between the screened veneer and the third dimension, following the man to a point where she stands beside him in a minor frenzy, deciding on action. She retreats from the potential point of touch and walks off, tingling.

But then she sees a face that freezes her. We don't know why but we do know that the man she has been spooked by is out of prison before time. This time the reach of the screen takes on the gravity of a mission. Her technological and official privilege arm her with his living circumstances and she infiltrates his nest, having already watched him with friends rowdily drunk and venal. By the time she tricks her way past security to get to a party at his flat we know no better than she does how much of this is a revenge we are not fully informed of and how much sheer fascination. She encourages his eye across the room  and they dance close. She begs off and vomits in the lift down.

Her dangerous game begins to spin out of control until, oddly, she is saved from crashing by her quarry whose threatening presence is dependent on a sexual charm too strong to ignore. This leads us to one of the strangest sex scenes I have seen on screen. It is both genuinely erotic and unnervingly brutal yet contains neither soft light nor violence. This brings us to where I began.

Finding out what she has against him is a narrative bloodknot and at the final meeting of the central pair where we witness both redemption and the exposure of unhealable emotional scars is a gut punch.

So why does this film feel so light? I still can't answer that question but I can say that any film that finds such awesome beauty in the normally monstrous architecture of British housing towerblocks has my vote for its sheer powers of observation. This should play like Loach or some old Play for Today but uses its danger and melodrama to create an enviable balance. Goldilocks would like this film. But then that's a Goldilocks I would very much like to talk to.

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