Glaswegian CCTV operator Jackie (Dickie) is startled to recognise local man Clyde (Curran) on her monitor. Establishing that hes been released from prison, she starts stalking him, and the reason for her obsession is gradually revealed.
Having bagged an Academy Award for her short film Wasp, British director Andrea Arnold landed this year’s Cannes Jury Prize for her debut feature, which emphatically establishes her as one to watch. Part of an experiment called The Advance Party, Red Road is the first of three films revolving around the same characters and actors, each with different stories and directors.
The latter two films will find Red Road a tough act to follow. A slow-burning but enticing thriller, it captures its working class Glaswegian setting in absorbing detail, leaving us hanging on Jackie’s every move as she begins to trace Clyde’s comings and goings. After spotting him unceremoniously shagging a girl up against a wall on CCTV, she starts to follow him. Who is he: an ex fling? An attacker? Someone linked to a tragic past? Thanks to fascinating characters and a palpable sense of danger, we’re intrigued until the answer comes - an answer that may not be as believable as the gritty realism before it, but still provides a moving, thought-provoking conclusion.
Arnold’s direction is backed up by an excellent cast. Kate Dickie (TV’s Tinsel Town) is a strong lead whose actions and facial expressions speak volumes with minimal dialogue. Tony Curran (This Life) juxtaposes threatening sexuality with diamond-in-the-rough sensitivity as Clyde, quite the man about town on the rundown Red Road estate. Both Clyde and his cohorts – hero-worshipping Stevie (Martin Compston) and his dejected girlfriend April (Natalie Press), who will feature more heavily in the other films – ring true and subtly subvert expectations. The audience is initially encouraged to judge each of them just as Jackie does – paving the way for some unexpected conclusions.
At nearly two hours, Red Road is on the long side, and could test the patience of those weary of methods like Dogme (while not technically Dogme, this has a Danish flavour thanks to the rules of The Advance Party creators Lone Scherfig and Anders Thomas Jensen). But the film’s vivid, rarely-eroticised depiction of female sexuality and strength should hook fans of films like Morvern Callar, and its subtle suspense will keep audiences of all kinds involved.
Some really decent home grown talent in this intriguing British thriller.