25 November 2005 | gradyharp
A Small but Powerful Film about Coping with Challenges
Beginning with a smart script by Jeff Pope and Ian Puleston-Davies (the latter a fine actor who happens to be afflicted with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and under the inordinately delicate direction of Adrian Shergold, DIRTY FILTHY LOVE is one of the more sensitive examinations of two challenges that affect the lives of many people throughout the world: Tourette's Syndrome (complete with tics and uncontrollable inappropriate outbursts of foul language, noises, shouts), and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (lives complicated by the need for order imposed by the patient's mind as a series of repeated behaviors that protect the person from the terror of living in a chaotic world). Wrongly titled (a title that probably prevents many people from seeing this little miracle of a film) and incorrectly billed as a comedy (which is most certainly not), DIRTY FILTH LOVE is one of those films that slipped by us all without a theatrical release but now is thankfully available on DVD. It deserves full attention.
Mark Furness (played with superlative skill by Michael Sheen) is an architect on leave due to his progressive illnesses (see above) and who is first seen in the throes of beginning a trial separation from his beloved wife Stevie (Anastasia Griffith) who can no longer live under the same roof with Mark's 'inexplicable' behavior patterns. Left alone with the anxiety over his surfacing deterioration from his physical challenges, Mark finds solace with his close friends who also tire of his behavior and insist he seek medical help. In the waiting room of a deaf-eared doctor Mark 'meets' Charlotte (the astonishingly fine character actor Shirley Henderson) and Charlotte, who happens to suffer from both Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well as trichotillomania (uncontrolled pulling out hair strands to the point of baldness), senses a man who needs help. Charlotte tells Mark of a group therapy session for people with similar problems and Mark, out of desperation, joins the group (a fascinating group of actors imbuing their disease states without the least sign of parody).
It is obvious rather early on that Charlotte is attracted to Mark, but Mark's life is one directed toward making himself acceptable to Stevie. With a powerful confrontation at a very social party Mark realizes he suffers from a disease state he has had since birth and the only one who really cares about his dilemma and understands his turmoil is Charlotte: a strange love affair is finally recognized.
Scripts such as this are all too rare and when brought to the screen with the exceptional acting and direction rendered by this crew they become films that should be required viewing. In every way these are brilliant performances by Michael Sheen and by Shirley Henderson, yet because the film never received a theatrical release in this country (probably due to the factors mentioned above) it will be ignored by the Oscars. But awards are only momentary returns for art pieces of this caliber and this one is destined for a long shelf life. Highly recommended. Grady Harp