Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Daphne - a morose vision of modern life and a film worth watching (QFT from 6 October)

Daphne holds up a mirror to a morose vision of modern life: morose but probably quite accurate.

She’s a questioning 31 year old (going on 20 something) who is wallowing in meaninglessness. The eponymous character is also a contradiction: smokes (nicotine and weed) and drinks to excess yet works in a restaurant putting together plates of delicious food, goes jogging and wanders the streets to get home each night from hollow hook-ups.
“Internet dating is consumerism masquerading as love”

The unfolding story suggests that twin traumas (her Mum’s health and a violent attack she witnesses) are pertinent to her state of mind and a slow self-evaluation of behaviour.

We watch Daphne flit between joyless encounters with men like a butterfly. Her self esteem is shredded finer than the herbs she sprinkles over plates heading out to customer tables. Her brain is infused with the works of philosopher Slavoj Žižek to the same extent her liver is a sponge full of white wine.

Pale-faced Emily Beecham’s distinctive ginger hair glows out from every shot. She plays a rounded character with stacks of soul that is not merely on screen to be pitied. A homeless man is fed, a victim comforted, a work colleague encouraged to go home to his wife rather than start an affair. Beecham has a flair for humour, with the beginnings of a tragicomedy set delivered to a fellow passenger on a London bus.

A number of men make positive interventions in her life. Work boss Joe (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor most recently seen in Maze) keeps an eye on her. David the bouncer (Nathaniel Martello-White) disrupts the pattern of her normal dating rules. Even the takeaway delivery guy worries about her health.

We know that local actor Ryan McParland is handy with a knife from his role in the play Summertime, and he pops in the door of a corner shop as a lousy robber just as Daphne tries to buy some painkillers.

Director Peter Mackie Burns’ observational style jars when he introduces an overly artsy “can we just sit here for a while?” scene about fifteen minutes from the end, echoing a therapy session with victim support. It sits oddly in a film that is ambling towards a conclusion. Though the ending is nearly as abrupt as Daphne’s style of flirting. The final pages of Nico Mensinga’s script may have been thrown out in order to maximise the ambiguity.

Daphne is being screened in the Queen’s Film Theatre from 6-12 October. It’s a fabulous film, eighty eight minutes long and beautifully shot, interesting to watch and without pretension. Emily Beecham deserves a long career with great parts after this film. And Peter Mackie Burns is definitely a director to watch out for after proving that despite the odd quirky scene he can hold an audience’s gaze on a character.

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