Morvern Callar Review

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After finding her novelist boyfriend has committed suicide over Christmas, shop worker Morvern Callar cleans up the mess, empties his bank account, puts her name to his finished novel and tells everyone he has left her…


Very few movies have understood, or captured, the transporting power of music as completely as Lynne Ramsay's second feature, Morvern Callar.

When the titular heroine plugs into her Walkman, permanently playing the compilation tape prepared by her recently deceased boyfriend, the dead-end supermarket she toils in daily is transformed into a magic carpet ride.

Later, an inhospitable desert will be remade as a gorgeous foreign vista.The equipment emphasis - always a personal stereo, never a public performance - can hardly be a coincidence for, like her remarkable debut, Ratcatcher, Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay weaves a fragile fantasy here; a fundamentally private experience that one imagines would be endangered by overexposure to harsh critical light.

The film's grammar is visual rather than verbal, emotional rather than intellectual, and depending on how beguiled you become by Alwin Kuchler's striking photography, the resulting picture is either suffused with a dream-like logic or hamstrung by elementary plotting. The effect may be less contemporary than Ramsay imagines but, like all the best pop songs, the lyrics are not meant to make sense.

In capturing the freshness so obviously fundamental to her art, Ramsay is again well served by non-professional actors. Her keen eye is most evident in the casting of unknown Kathleen McDermott as Morvern's best friend Lanna, a good time girl more fully and humanely realised than a job lot of Mike Leigh stereotypes.

However, it is Samantha Morton as Morvern who glues the picture together. Her pale moon face and liquid blue eyes have already been employed as a tabula rasa by Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg, but it is Morvern - as immediate as she is elusive, as earthy as she is ethereal - that provides the actress with a signature role.

While not quite as compelling as Ratcather, Morvern Callar is shot through with enough everyday poetry to suggest that Ramsay is fast closing in on the synthesis of Ken Loach and Robert Bresson that seems to be her target. And Morton is outstanding.