A middle-aged man inadvertently meets his estranged stepdaughter, that he abandoned 10 years before, under the most incongruous circumstances.
Audrey Gagneux writes and directs a very enclosed story about two damaged people who, as fate would have it, are given a chance to tend to some of their unhealed wounds. Barry Ward’s Charlie is a seemingly well-off white-collar professional with no one to connect to. Consequently, he appears to spend his evenings drinking and paying for sex. When an alternative to the girl he normally sees ends up being his stepdaughter, he is forced to confront not only his choices but his nature with a person in a position to judge him, seemingly for the first time.
Tanya Reynolds’ Lily, while self-assured and clearly experienced in this world, has the air of a woman who is guarded and emotionally detached. Only when the connection is made as to who Charlie is to her does her veneer begin to crack. Reynolds does a fantastic job of portraying a young woman who has become adept at suppressing deep psychological torment, only letting on to the depth of her anguish as the intensity of the story ratchets up.
Lily’s character works in tandem with a bold step taken by the script, which resists the temptation to make Lily’s role as an escort a reflection of her emotional damage or a situation that she needs to be rescued from. In doing so Gagneux and Reynolds create a character that wields her agency with conviction without taking away her vulnerability.
As the whole story is built around a central conceit of an accidental family reunion, the ability of both actors to sell the story is crucial to whether or not the film works. To that end, Ward and Reynolds become the film’s beating heart. Ward is unafraid to embrace the flawed nature of his character, leaning into Charlie’s weakness and regret. This works in conjunction with Reynolds’ previously repressed pain now erupting in a mix of hurt and anger, making it impossible for her to retain the emotional barriers that we suspect she has been using for more than just her job. Both actors are able to hold the screen and thus our attention, which helps us to empathise with two very different lives and invest in the attempts to repair damage more than a decade old.
It also does not hurt that this film is beautifully lensed. Each individual shot is wonderfully lit, utilising key lights for Lily as her true emotions are laid bare and backlighting Charlie, showing him to be the empty shell of a man that he has become. The visual storytelling carried out by Gagneux’s direction and Jack Reynolds’ cinematography add depth and narrative economy to the experience, allowing the audience to get as much as possible out of the film’s moderate runtime.
This is a film about forgiveness, second chances and the need for connection. Through its premise and fearless performances, we are tasked with contemplating whether or not offering these things to others (whether they deserve it or not) may help us heal our own wounds.
Studio: Audrey Gagneux | Year: 2019 | Genre: Drama | Duration: 13 Mins | Suitability: Mature
| Writer: Audrey Gagneux
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