The Movie Waffler New Release Review [VOD] - CORDELIA | The Movie Waffler

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New Release Review [VOD] - CORDELIA

cordelia review
A troubled woman is attracted to her mysterious neighbour.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Adrian Shergold

Starring: Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Johnny Flynn, Michael Gambon, Catherine McCormack, Alun Armstrong

cordelia poster

English actor Johnny Flynn burst onto the scene with his role in Michael Pearce's psychological thriller Beast. While most actors go out of their way to avoid typecasting, here we find Flynn playing almost a carbon copy of his ambiguous antagonist from that film, once again simultaneously seducing and menacing a troubled young woman played by an Irish actress.

cordelia review

Where Beast was set in the windswept Channel Islands, Cordelia's drama plays out in a bustling London. 12 years after surviving a traumatic incident on the Underground, Cordelia (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) is beginning to get her life back on track. An actress, she's just landed a role as an understudy in a stage production of 'King Lear' (you'll never guess for which part) and is happy to venture out into the streets, though the Tube is still off limits.


Cordelia's progress is tested when Caroline, the identical twin sister (also played, somewhat distractingly, by Campbell-Hughes) she lives with, announces that she's heading off for a romantic weekend away with her boyfriend, leaving Cordelia alone in their basement flat. As soon as Caroline is gone, Cordelia begins receiving harassing phone calls from a withheld number, setting her fraught mental state back a considerable degree.

cordelia review

A chance encounter with her upstairs neighbour, handsome cellist Frank (Flynn), makes Cordelia feel a little more safe. But when they go for drinks, Cordelia finds Frank's phone is filled with pictures of herself and Caroline. Could Frank be responsible for the phone calls, or as Cordelia questions him, "Am I safe with you?"


We live in the age of the writer/director, but the truth is there are very few filmmakers who are equally adept at both disciplines. Shergold has been directing for over 25 years at this point, mostly in TV, but Cordelia is the first time he's also worked on one of his scripts, writing alongside Campbell-Hughes. His strengths would appear to lie behind the camera rather than at the word processor. For most of Cordelia's running time, Shergold fashions a moody chamber piece with echoes of Polanski and the atmospheric British thrillers of the 1960s. With cinematographer Tony Slater Ling and art director Ceinwen Wilkinson, Shergold creates a tactile environment - you can almost smell the must from Cordelia's basement flat, a subterranean shelter from the thronging masses whose feet she watches pass by her widow. It's an attractively mounted film, but Shergold knows not to allow his camera to distract from the two central performances, which is where the film's true strength lies.

cordelia review

Unfortunately, Shergold and Campbell-Hughes' writing is found wanting, peppered with cringy, on-the-nose storytelling and eye-rolling dialogue ("We're the same, you and I," a character sneers at one point). After setting up an intriguing cat-and-mouse game between Frank and Cordelia, the film doesn't know what to do with this dynamic, and it descends into the sort of cliches you'll be familiar with if you've ever witnessed a TV soap opera play out a stalker plot-line.

Cordelia
 is on UK VOD from November 30th.

2020 movie reviews