The Movie Waffler New to Prime Video - NOCTURNAL | The Movie Waffler

New to Prime Video - NOCTURNAL

New to Prime Video - NOCTURNAL
A lonely teenage girl forms an intense bond with an older man.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Nathalie Biancheri

Starring: Cosmo Jarvis, Lauren Coe, Sadie Frost, Amy Griffiths, Yasmin Monet Prince

nocturnal poster

After a wave of dramas set in the countryside (God's Own Country, The Levelling, Dark River), British indies have seemingly adopted the seaside town as their current favoured backdrop. We've seen recent movies like Hope Gap, Make Up, Jellyfish, Perfect 10 and Scarborough play out their dramas along Britain's wind-battered, salt and vinegar perfumed coast. UK based Italian writer/director Nathalie Biancheri is the latest filmmaker to opt for such a setting with her debut feature Nocturnal, set in a dreary Yorkshire coastal town where there's little to do but get drunk, engage in casual sex and hang around amusement arcades.

nocturnal review

It's here that we find 16-year-old Laurie (Lauren Coe), newly arrived with her mother (Sadie Frost), the latter returning to her hometown after raising her daughter in Dublin. Thanks to some thinly concealed anti-Irish prejudice from her bitchy classmates, Laurie is friendless, pumping all her energy into her sprinting practice. It's during one such session that she catches the eye of Pete (Cosmo Jarvis), a 33-year-old painter/decorator who has just split up with his girlfriend, who grew tired of his lack of commitment.

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Pete approaches Laurie one evening after practice, not so subtly inviting her into his car. Unsurprisingly, the teen rejects his advances. The next day, Pete is back at the track, staring psychotically through the fence at Laurie. Figuring she has nobody else to spend her time with, Laurie decides to indulge this oddball. ("You're a creepy fuck, but you've got balls, I'll give you that.") The two head off to a nightclub, but when Laurie gets hammered, rather than taking advantage of her vulnerability, Pete behaves paternally, rejecting her advances and dropping her home. This pattern continues as the pair continue to meet, forming an increasingly intense bond, and it soon becomes apparent that Pete's interest in Laurie is by no means as predatory as we might have assumed.

nocturnal review

Nocturnal has much in common with the aforementioned Scarborough, both in its seaside backdrop and its technically legal but frowned upon relationship between a teenager and a thirtysomething. Both films hold secret cards up their sleeves, pulling the rug out from under our judgemental expectations. I won't divulge the "twist" here, but suffice to say you'll figure it out long before it's dropped, and in doing so the film will gain an extra layer of tension which Biancheri stretches out like a rubber band that eventually snaps back in the face of her protagonists.

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Jarvis has quickly established himself as one of the most watchable British actors working today, and between this and Calm With Horses, he's cornered the market in hulking man-children. With Pete he takes us on a journey from viewing him as a sinister creep to making us sympathise with his well-meaning but incredibly ill-thought out plans. As Laurie, Coe is a revelation, the latest star to emerge from the current conveyor belt of talented young Irish actresses that has recently given us such future stars as Ann Skelly, Jessie Buckley and Aisling Franciosi. The initially awkward but ultimately charming chemistry between the worldly Laurie and innocent Pete goes a long way towards preventing us thinking too much about the rather hard to swallow actions of the latter.

nocturnal review

Shot in 4:3, Biancheri and cinematographer Michal Dymek exploit both the sense of height and intimacy such a frame creates. Pete and Laurie are often framed as small figures against a post-industrial landscape of steaming power plants, like lovers in an Antonioni film, but without the impeccable Italian dress sense; or in uncomfortable close-ups, both occupying a visual space too small to accommodate them. A British based Italian transplant, Biancheri combines both nation's cinematic legacies to give us a beautifully acted piece of social realist drama that's also very easy on the eye. Like her two stars, she's one to watch in the coming years.

Nocturnal is on Prime Video UK now.