dir. Renata Gabryjelska.
Travelling across France young lovers Ana (Andrea Tivadar) and Tom (Tom Ainsley) are looking for work, but after an accident caused by a reckless bus driver they find themselves lost and stumble upon a remote estate. Offered work by the estate owner Richard (Steven Brand) the couple find themselves cut off from the outside world.
Making her feature debut, director Renata Gabryjelska explores interesting ideas about the power of the mind. Something feels off from early on, with hints that there may be more to the tale, and when the story eventually shows its hand a new light is cast upon previous events. Sadly things are more compelling in theory than execution, the final product unfortunately falling short.
As the mysterious owner of the isolated estate, Richard lives a lonely life with his pet dogs. Brand captures his enigmatic nature well, making cryptic comments and acting suspicious, his manipulations felt between the couple. This is where the main issue lies however, as it’s difficult to believe in the core romance due to Tom’s characterisation: he’s portrayed as dumb but well-meaning, incorrectly spelling words on love notes, but also shown to be a toxic alpha-male. It’s hard to invest in their relationship when he keeps lashing out at Ana, acting needlessly combative and casually using homophobic language.
These elements would feel necessary if they were part of the story leading to a turn tackling Tom’s venomous behaviour, but that moment never comes, instead leaving it as a misguided character detail. The result makes audiences wonder why Ana would put up with such an aggressive and unsympathetic lout: a question not helped by the fact her character feels more like a plot device than a person, caught between the machinations of two manipulative men. What’s left then is ultimately a thriller which isn’t that thrilling.