Daphne Vitale (Emily Beecham) is a young-looking thirtysomething whose life is going nowhere fast, but she is unable to do anything about it. She works as a chef in a busy restaurant, where the boss, Joe (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) is fond of her but her prickly demeanour means he hasn't a hope of getting close to her, as her idea of a relationship is a one-night stand where she can get a few drinks, get the sex over with, and then head home. She is in no fit state for romance, that's for sure, and her mother (Geraldine James) does her best to encourage her daughter into a more meaningful existence, yet Daphne is having none of it. What will it take to rouse her from this torpor?
How about being witness to a violent attack? That is what happens ten minutes into this drama, our heroine is shaken by a crime occurring within feet of her when she is in a grocery store and a violent little thug enters, demands the money in the till, then when the shopkeeper is not forthcoming, stabs him. Daphne cradles the injured man in her hands as he collapses into unconsciousness, but once the police and ambulance arrive she has no idea whether he has passed away or not, and if she has in fact been witness to a murder. Meanwhile, life continues for her much as it has done for the past few years, but that incident looms large in her mind even as she attempts to drown it out.
Simply carrying on as if nothing has happened is one tactic to recover from a traumatic experience, but perhaps not one that will have lasting success as Daphne discovers; though she is not one to open up about her feelings, we can imagine images from the crime are flashing into her mind when she's trying to go about her business as before. Beecham, winning a rare lead after her previous stint as a protagonist in nun comedy The Calling, was clearly grabbing this second opportunity with both hands, and truly committed to delivering a fully-rounded performance in a manner that we could well believe Daphne was a real person who we might have met at some point in life.
Or even been that person, as everyone has a period in life where they feel as if they are going nowhere and every day is the same, for some that may last a few months, for others that is all their lives become and they cannot escape that repetition. The question that arises there is, what do you do to cope? Late on, Daphne's mother explains that she has taken up Buddhism after a cancer scare because she did not want her life to have been school, work, husband, baby, more work, die: there has to be more to our days than that. What we can tell is that while her daughter has found an escape of a kind, this constitutes running away from anything that might require her to shape up and be serious about getting on, most blatantly in her treatment of men. One chap, David (Nathaniel Martello-White), makes a point of getting to know her, but makes barely any progress.
That they met when he was a doorman and he was throwing her drunken self out of a club maybe is not the best basis for love, but he is plainly a nice guy who could do wonders for her self-esteem should she allow him to, but she is stuck in a cycle of ignoring what could be good for her when the lure of those samey days proves a security blanket she was reluctant to let go of. It's all very well keeping others at arm's length, this tells you, but this leaves you in a state of detachment where you will be theorising your way out of caring too much about those around you and the consequences of your actions, good and bad, and that's when real life jumps up and bites you, as it does to Daphne. Although not essaying the most sympathetic of characters, Beecham offered a curiously magnetic presence as the camera is continually drawn to her, as are we in turn, and the slices of life stylings of director Peter Mackie Burns rang true enough so that while there was no grand, happy ending, there was hope, which is about the best most of us can ask for. Music by Sam Beste.
[Altitude's DVD has the trailer as an extra and that's your lot.]