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  Red Road Watch Out
Year: 2006
Director: Andrea Arnold
Stars: Kate Dickie, Tony Curran, Martin Compston, Natalie Press, Paul Higgins, Andrew Armour, Carolyn Calder, John Comerford, Jessica Angus, Martin McCardle, Martin O'Neill, Cora Bisset, Charles Brown, Annie Bain, Frances Kelly, John McDonald, William Cassidy
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jackie (Kate Dickie) works in a CCTV centre in an impoverished area of Glasgow, keeping a watchful eye over the public as they go about their daily business. She feels maternal towards the souls she looks after, and when she is not calling the police to take care of some kind of crime or other, she likes to observe certain residents she sees, such as the cleaner who enjoys dancing to her mp3 player while she works, or the man whose pet dog has seen better days. Otherwise, Jackie lives an empty existence, that is until she catches sight of a figure on the screen - an ex-convict she recognises...

Red Road was the first in a proposed trio of films made by a collaboration between British and Danish movie makers, apparently spurred on by director Lars von Trier to create their own, Dogme 95-style rules for their project. It was another four years after this before we even got the second in the series, but here was a work that won considerable acclaim, and was much anticipated in light of its director Andrea Arnold's Oscar-winning short of three years before. In truth, although it was extremely well made, it was flawed in the script department, but that wasn't anything you noticed when viewing it for the first time.

On initial viewing, what most impressed were the performances, with Kate Dickie as the lead showing that a tour de force does not necessarily have to involve a lot of yelling and display of grand emotions. Her character did go through her trials in the way she felt, certainly, but the key to her was that she was keeping all this simmering rage and resentment bottled up inside, only allowing it to surface in the coldly calculating manner in which she goes about channelling them to her satisfaction. Once you find out what her motives are, Red Road looked a lot like one of those vigilante movies that had emerged during its decade.

Except that instead of going hellbent on the destruction of her victim with all guns literally blazing, Jackie works out a different way of getting her own back, which turns out to be no less unpalatable than actual murder. Well, perhaps not quite that bad, but what she does do strains credibility in light of how her actions are explained; she's obviously going through a lot of inner conlfict and turmoil, but would she really have taken part in the explicit sex scene that we are queasily treated to in the final hour if she knew who her partner was and what he had done to her life? Before the facts are made plain, we begin to think all sorts of awful things about Clyde (Tony Curran) and what he possibly could have done to invite Jackie's wrath.

This suspense is well sustained in a low key thriller that is no less tense for its lack of action sequences. The best word to describe the bulk of the plot, or how it is presented, would be "cagey" as Arnold, who also developed the script, tells us only the bare minimum to keep us intrigued, with Jackie using underhand methods to keep track of Clyde. First at her job, where she lifts tapes that feature his image to take home for further study, then to the extent of following him around the town, and more than that, inviting herself into the flat he shares with two others (Martin Compston and Natalie Press) for a party, then detailed reconnaissance. Remember, if you are unaware of the revelation at the end, you are worrying for Jackie as we don't know if Clyde has been linked to rape, murder, or what. Yet knowing what we do once the film is over, you have to admit it took too long to reach its conclusion of forgiveness, and Jackie's behaviour is hard to believe, though most of us would not wish to be in her position to find out how authentically she did react.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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