Still – Review ***

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Although it sells itself as a thriller in its description, just checking out the trailer for Still gives you some hint of what the film’s actual aim is. The trailer (though not, I need to add, the film) is dominated by heavily emotional, slow music as scenes of violence, despair and debauchery parade before us. Actually, now I come to think of it, that is quite an accurate description of what the film is trying to achieve. Although the subject matter may sell the story as a thriller, Still tries to justify its existence with various emotional shocks on multiple levels. And although I will not for one minute deny that a few of these shocks hit home, one can’t help but feel that if a little more time was spent on the whole film that surrounds them, the result would be a much, much tidier, enjoyable film…

Tom Carver (Aiden Gillen) is a man on the edge. A freelance photographer with a rather casual approach to concepts such as “adult life” and responsibility. Tom’s life was not the most organized at the best of times, but the death of his teenage son has pushed him closer to the edge than he had ever been before. One day, a seemingly innocent altercation turns into a full-blown feud with a local gang of teenagers. What starts off as male bravado quickly spirals out of control into places darker than those Tom’s wildest imaginings could picture. Now, on the one hand, Aiden Gillen’s performance combined with director Simon Blake’s choice in editing, the extreme close-ups, the emotional music, the constant dark brooding atmosphere and muted color scheme all come together to bring out some truly explosive dramatic moments. Gillen is especially good at teasing us with the hint that there may be something very, very dark lurking beneath, even in his most day to day interactions…

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That said, the moment you start applying logic and asking questions, you begin to see that beyond the “veil of tears”, there are some rather tenacious premises and plot holes. I almost missed the “start” of the feud. I mean I saw it, and literally thought “oh this can’t be it, that’s ridiculous”. I was wrong. Fair enough, in some countries even looking at someone the wrong way can end in knife-fights, but this at best would be an in-the-moment, visceral reaction. It would not lead to anyone (much less a 15 year-old) to patiently follow you home and draw up a plan of action. A whole side story is built up and left hanging, only for us to piece together that mostly, it just was meant to be the “motivation” for Tom’s best friend to help him. There are various attempts at a trope the minimalists used a lot – not showing a key piece of the story but telling it later through the characters talking about it. But since it is badly set up, it ends up just being confusing – there are one or two moments I’m still not sure if they are simply continuity errors.  In short, Still attempts a lot – and I mean A LOT – but I just can’t shake the feeling that if only they had spent another week or two on the script, found a better premise here, added in a scene or two there, this could have been a really good film.

Aidan Gallery PR shot

Add all that to the bits where the emotional tugs on our heart strings go a tad overboard – you can have only so many extreme close-ups, and while Aiden Gillen does a fantastic job of portraying drunken, ruined despair, with jerky, drunken camera moves and dodgy lighting, but one or two incidents like it would have been more than enough to give us a general impression. I couldn’t help but feel that a few too many of those scenes made their way into the film.

In short, Still definitely feels like it was onto something good at some point, but seriously lost the way somewhere along the line. Although it anchors itself somewhere completely different (I picked up a few clear references to Quadrophenia just for starters), it actually feels like a Bollywood film on the overly emotional, rather loosely-premised level. The trouble is, Bollywood emotions don’t mix well at all with British kitchen-sink realism and the result is just confusing.

Still will be released in UK cinema 8th May.

A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Sedef moved to London three years ago to get her MA in Film Studies and never quite got round to going back home. As she once worked in a DVD company and watched films for a living, she started a personal blog (essiespeaks.blogspot.com) as a short answer to being constantly asked “watched anything interesting recently?” and loved blogging so much she just kept typing . She is the biggest Tarantino fan she knows and would be unable to choose a single film of his as a favourite.