Sunday, 7 August 2011

A Reckoning - film review

                                          A Reckoning
Originally titled Straw ManA Reckoning is a small budget British production directed by A.D. Barker, and starring Leslie Simpson. Currently caught up in a hellish legal fight, it's a film that few so far can see - a shame, as it deserves as wide an audience as possible.

The film follows a lone man through his day to day life in an abandoned housing estate during a bitterly cold British winter and beyond. Whether the man is the sole survivor of an apocalypse event or his solitary life is an indication of his psychological isolation, or perhaps even madness, is never disclosed. Despite us not knowing the explicit details of his circumstances, we are given multiple clues to his character throughout the film, beginning with the opening quote from Edgar Allan Poe, “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” 

Simpson’s careful and studied portrayal of his character's descent into the darkness of his own mind is incredibly powerful and well played. Ranging from the black comedy of his interactions with the straw students he 'teaches' as part of his apparent need to hold on to normality, to his profound loneliness and total isolation, as he longs for a “single sentence to break the silence,” Simpson seems to have invested himself one hundred per cent to the role both physically and mentally, and it shows. It’s a wonderful, nuanced performance and he deserves credit for making his character believable and touching as well as frightening and deranged.

Something too, must be said, about Adam Krajczynski’s magnificent photography which gives an ethereal beauty to the desolate winter landscape and is an integral element in the film's overall emotional impact.

A Reckoning asks many questions and whilst some are answered, many are left open. It’s a very literary film with multiple references to books and characters that, if one is familiar with those works, add an extra dimension to the narrative and provide further indication of the character's mental state. Whilst in many other films, this kind of 'intellectual product placement' can be over emphasised and clumsy, here it works perfectly, and gives a genuine depth to the film.

A Reckoning is a film that asks each and every one of us to question our habitual lives. It’s an existential quest to discover the meaning in our own existence, beyond our attachments to others and everything we hold dear. To strip away everything and see what remains.


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