The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Curzon Home Cinema] - JUSTINE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Curzon Home Cinema] - JUSTINE

justine review
A troubled alcoholic young woman finds love, but her self-destructive ways threaten her happiness.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Jamie Patterson

Starring: Tallulah Haddon, Sophie Reid, Sian Reese-Williams, Steve Oram, Xavien Russell, Kirsty Dillon

justine poster

Justine, Jamie Patterson (director) and Jeff Murphy’s (screenwriter) grim-soap love story opens with a quote from Ovid advising that, "Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish." I duly jotted down this piscine themed maxim in my notes, to become increasingly nonplussed while watching the film.

justine review

As we witness the dipsomaniac titular character (Tallulah Haddon - magnetic) woozily lurch from one confrontation to the next in her home town of Brighton, observing the twenty-something drink, shag, drink some more, fall out with people, drink; there are no fish to be seen whatsoever. Large bodies of water are involved: we open with Justine passed out in a cold bath and then later, when she, and a ne’er-do-well pal, sit on the beach getting pissed I got my hopes up for some ad hoc angling, but we don’t even get an onscreen tiddler.

The thing is, throughout Justine the dictum has no metaphorical resonance either. Assuming that what Ovid was on about was the propensity for opportunity to present itself to those who look for it, his Augustan wisdom is lost on Justine. As a character she is obstinate by design and frustrating in presence, which is entirely true of alcoholics in real life. Alcoholism is a disease which I would imagine creeps up on you. Ever had a hangover? Then at least once you’ve drank more than you can deal with, and the booze has got the better of you. Ever looked forward to a glass of Friday wine, a blowout with your mates? Then you can see the attraction. What is intriguing is that Justine doesn’t allocate its protagonist’s condition to a discernible reason, and, instead, characters continually point out how Justine - clever, young, middle class - is self-destructive. After all, she somehow hooks up with Rachel (Sophie Reid), who is warm, intelligent and fit, and who wants to take the utterly useless Justine away to live in BARCELONA with her! Yet, Justine is mystifyingly awful to her. Ovid is misplaced, as throughout the film things just seem to happen to Justine, rather than the character actively pursuing fish/goals.

justine review

The nonchalance and self-loathing with which Justine approaches her life seems authentic to the alcoholic experience (afaik), a compulsive malaise that dictates one’s ontology. However, this legitimacy does not necessarily make for intriguing drama, and resultingly, Justine is a bleak prospect, with the character's inflexibility soon becoming tiresome to the viewer, unmooring her from any sympathy or narrative impact.

Patterson and Murphy do pique interest when they touch upon the conceit that Justine is a well to do kid slumming it: she has a safety net in the form of a put-upon mum, whom she extorts for money, and at whom she screamingly accuses of "not knowing who I am!!!" Suck it up, Justine. Nobody really knows anyone, not really, surely you’re old enough to understand that? Yet, everyone in the film, from mum, to Rachel, to the kindly shop owner who Justine cheerfully rips off, offers her infinite and inexplicable patience; the sort of unconditional latitude which only middle-class tearaways seem to be afforded.

justine review

Angling for a plot development, towards the end of the film Justine gets duffed up by some girls, for no other reason than the third act demands some dramatic denouement. Framed as a ‘wake-up call’, the arbitrary nature of the attack, which again depicts something just happening to the character, has nothing to with Justine’s drinking and could have occurred at any other point in the film. Coronation Street, with Peter’s ongoing battle with the bottle, handles this sort of material in a more inclusive manner. When it comes to this sort of kitchen sink drama about substance addiction and raw living, there are plenty more fish in the sea.

Justine is on Curzon Home Cinema from March 5th.

2021 movie reviews