A love story is an easy device to build a drama around, but it’s not always easy to do it well. Stereotypes are so near, authenticity is rare, and predictability abounds. To succeed, chemistry has to feel real and the parties involved must be strong enough to blossom. The characters must become people.
With his directorial debut, actor Tom Cullen (Downton Abbey, Weekend) has successfully found an alchemy that lets love leap off the page, bringing tenderness and vulnerability to his central pair. They are Jenna (Maslany) and Leon (Duplass), a couple opening up across six key moments of their relationship, one every year. The audience isn’t forced to pedantically take notes in chronological order — Cullen flits across scenes as necessary, rather than as expected.
Tatiana Maslany is sensational, heartbreaking and hypnotic.
Conversations unfold and sometimes overflow wholly authentically. Cullen’s devised approach lets the actors experiment and feel their way through. This allows rare and precious humanity, but does also suggest a slight lack of control as the dialogue becomes intermittently indulgent.
But mostly — it works. Jenna and Leon’s relationship firmly exists in the present day, as they learn and scorn what it means to be a ‘cuck’, gender expectations are unpacked and fought against, and infidelity and impulse are explored without awkwardness.
A story of this type relies on the individuals living it, and Maslany and Duplass perfectly complement each other. She is sensational, heartbreaking and hypnotic in turn, while his comic timing injects relief and a sense of grounded reality.
Like a simultaneously pressurised and elongated version of one of Linklater’s Before films, Pink Wall devotes itself to the details of a person’s feelings explained through words. The film relies on two lovers, and trusts them completely. In return, they give an audience a whole world to believe in.