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New Release Review - NORFOLK

A teenage boy is torn between his unhinged father and a young immigrant girl.






Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Martin Radich

Starring: Denis Menochet, Barry Keoghan, Goda Letkauskaite, Sean Buckley, Eileen Davies



There's an interesting dynamic between the well acted central trio, one which may have prospered in a more traditional form of storytelling, but writer-director Martin Radich's decision to deliver an obtuse drama ultimately extinguishes any spark of interest you might find in this odd little film.



From the kitchen sink drama of 1962's A Kind of Loving to this year's The Violators, gritty British dramas have long been associated with urban squalor, be it London tower blocks or Mancunian terraces. In the past year we've seen indie filmmakers look beyond the concrete jungles of the UK, setting their dramas in the less familiar cinematic surrounds of rural England. The Goob, Chicken and now Norfolk surround their troubled characters with the lush fields of England's green and pleasant land, contrasting human fragility with the rigid stability of nature.


Unlike the other two movies mentioned, Norfolk can't be described as social realism; it's very much a fantasy, set in an indefinable era, somewhere between the 1980s and some point in the near future. The movie opens with an array of CRT TV sets, all set to different channels. It looks like the shop front of an electrical store circa 1983, but it's actually the living room of 'Man' (Dennis Menochet) and his teenage son, 'Boy' (Barry Keoghan). The pair live in a run down stone house in the middle of a field, and eke out a living picking vegetables, along with a group of Eastern European immigrants, on a nearby farm.

Boy befriends and falls for 'Girl' (Goda Letkauskaite), a pretty young immigrant worker who remains mute, presumably due to a lack of English. This rubs Man up the wrong way, warning his son that it's a bad idea to get involved with strangers. When Man receives orders through one of his many TV sets to destroy the compound that houses Girl and the rest of the immigrants, it sets Man and Boy on a conflict. Meanwhile, Man's in-laws (Sean Buckley and Eileen Davies) have hired a hitman to kill their son-in-law, whom they hold accountable for the death of their daughter.


It's common now for Hollywood films to feature an all British line-up in their central casts, but Norfolk might be the first British movie to feature foreigners in its three key roles - Ireland's Keoghan, France's Menochet and Lithuania's Letkauskaite. The former does a great job of pulling off an English accent, while Menochet speaks in a bizarre brogue that sounds closest to South African to my ears. It's but one of many disconcerting elements in Norfolk, a film with a relatively simple narrative that's made to appear more esoteric than it really is by its mannered dialogue, slow motion sequences and a discordant score by JG Thirlwell.


While initially intriguing, it doesn't take long for Norfolk to begin the process of patience testing, beginning with a bizzare sequence in which Menochet performs a strobe lit ritualistic dance that feels like it lasts for a good 10 minutes.

There's an interesting dynamic between the well acted central trio, one which may have prospered in a more traditional form of storytelling, but writer-director Martin Radich's decision to deliver an obtuse drama ultimately extinguishes any spark of interest you might find in this odd little film.

Norfolk is in cinemas September 21st.






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