Saturday, 20 August 2022

Island (2011)

This is a quirky little film which I picked up on over at Mubi, about a woman from London who was abandoned by her mother at birth who seeks revenge and heads to an offshore Scottish island to get it!

Mother, Phyllis, went off to live there, you see, and the island is where we pick up on the story as Nikki arrives on the ferry. We follow her as she tries to find out from the inhospitable islanders about a place to get digs while she pretends to be on a geography research trip. It just so happens that her birth mother has a card in the local shop window offering a room!

She arrives at the house, in the middle of nowhere, bangs on the door, negotiates the room and moves in. The mother doesn't know who she is, neither does her son, so she gets settled and starts to get to know them, looking for opportunities to do the deed - kill her! The son, Calum, is clearly her half-brother but as yet, nobody knows. Calum comes across as a simple chap, harmless, but later we find out that their mother controls his every move. Won't let him work or barely leave the house.

It's all very quirky and odd. Phyllis is cold, unfriendly and uncommunicative much of the time. She has cancer and is taking medication - so perhaps Nikki doesn't need to kill her after all! Calum and Nikki start to hang out together, firstly sparring defensively, not comfortable with each other being around but then things warm up between them and they become close, a bit like sister and brother in fact, but he still doesn't know the secret.

That's about it really, without giving away any of the reveals. It's slow and bleak, reflected by the landscape, people's attitudes and weather. Some lovely scenery is on show as you'd imagine spoiled a little for me by plenty of hand-held camera work. It's a dark tale which is apparently based on the novel of the same name by Jane Rogers, which I have not read, and clearly very low-budget. One scene when the pair of them are on a row-boat is laughable in terms of any realism. But it's full of atmosphere in this misty, dour setting.

Natalie Press (Suffragette, My Summer of Love) plays Nikki very convincingly - a nasty, bitter and revengeful person. Colin Morgan (Belfast, Legend, Testament of Youth) is equally well cast as he portrays the troubled, confused and resentful Calum and Janet McTeer (Ozark, Jessica Jones) plays the apparently twisted, sad and lonely Phyllis to near perfection. A bunch of bitter, negative characters reflecting how life has been pretty terrible for them. It's in the hands of the relatively inexperienced Elizabeth Mitchell and Brek Taylor but they do a good job pulling it together.

It's certainly worth a watch if you get the chance. As I said, it is on Mubi but can also be accessed by a few other streaming services at time of writing.

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