2 November 2002 | azeemak
A work of art, a novel and a painting come to life.
After all the hype that greeted Lynne Ramsay's first film, Ratcatcher, which I didn't see, I approached this with caution. The presence of Samantha Morton was my guarantee that it would at least be watchable, as she's never yet put a foot wrong on screen. And boy was my faith rewarded! It's a long time since I've emerged from a cinema so entranced, and then started itching to see the film again just a few hours later.
Samantha Morton's performance is truly extraordinary, bringing to life this mysterious, inscrutable woman who is at the same time very alive and in-your-face, not out of place getting smashed at a party, yet seeming like an alien as she wanders around listening to her walkman with a dazed 1000 yard stare. I was amazed to read that Kathleen McDermott, who plays her best friend, is a non-professional; it says a lot for her performance that she holds her own opposite such a stellar talent - and also says a lot for the naturalism and generosity of Morton's performance.
Some critics have been much exercised by the implausibilities in the plot (around the fate of her boyfriend's body and the dealings with the publisher, for example). I don't care about all that stuff! This film is as far away from gritty realism as it's possible to get. Go with the flow and soak up the atmosphere is my advice.
You may read that this film is beautifully photographed, that every shot is a small work of art, exquisitely composed and framed. If not, you've just read it from me. That's all very well, of course - they say the same things about Peter Greenaway, who as far as I'm concerned would have been burnt at the stake in a more civilised age. The difference here is the warmth and seeming spontaneity of Lynne Ramsay's work. I didn't hear a voice shouting "look at me, aren't I beautifully filmed??". She doesn't tell us, she just shows us, revealing a gift for finding beauty in the mundane.
The other stroke of genius in this film is the soundtrack - and I don't just mean the music, although that is brilliantly chosen, revealing a trace of gallows humour in the film's grisliest scene; no, just the use of sound, the way we can hear everything, even the cockroach scuttling along the hotel room floor; and the way some of the conversations fade in from a distance, but in such a way that we can still just about hear what is being said.
For once, the hype is justified: Lynne Ramsay is the real deal, and Samantha Morton deserves another Oscar nomination for this breathtaking performance. Unreservedly recommended. So there.