Red Road (UK/Denmark; 113 min.)

directed by: Andrea Arnold
starring: Kate Dickie; Tony Curran; Natalie Press
Red Road

Bruce says: "Andrea Arnold is getting lots of attention these days. RED ROAD won the Jury Prize at Cannes and Best Film at the Miami International Film Festival. RED ROAD has interesting origins. With an Academy Award for her short film WASP tucked under her belt, Arnold was approached to take part in a Dogma related project where three different directors would create three films with the same characters. Hers is the first. Morag McKinnon and Mikkel Norgaard are the two other directors.

"As the film begins Jackie (Kate Dickie) is sitting in front of a vast group of police surveillance screens for an area of Glasgow called Red Road where large lower income housing projects tower over the landscape. The streets around the projects are rough and unfinished. The weed ridden land surrounding the high rises looks like it had been bulldozed when the projects were built but never finished off properly once the construction was finished. Whenever Jackie spots something on one of the screens that looks suspicious, she types in a code and brings the screen in question to her large monitor just to the left of the keyboard. It is a lonely job. Her co-workers seem to like her and go out of their way to be kind and cooperative. When an image of a man appears on one of the screens Jackie becomes obsessed with tracking him. She frantically tries to follow him as different surveillance cameras pick him up.

"The object of Jackie’s obsession is Clyde (Tony Curran). He works for a locksmith and lives in the Red Road projects with another guy and his girlfriend. Jackie starts hanging out in the local Red Road pubs and learns that Clyde is throwing a party on the following weekend. The night of the party she gains entry to Clyde’s apartment by following a couple into the building and pretending she is an invited guest. Jackie and Clyde meet and Clyde is quite taken with her. When they next meet in the pub, Clyde and Jackie have an incredibly lustful verbal exchange before going back to his apartment. There, Jackie behaves with an emotional detachment that is disarming. 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' adds an unsettling touch.

"Arnold dances around the true subject of the film and keeps the viewer in the dark as to Jackie’s motivations and what is actually going on with Clyde. We do learn that Jackie used to have a husband and perhaps a child. We find out she is estranged from her in-laws. We suspect Clyde may be involved in drugs. It appears Jackie may be engaged in some sort of police shakedown. The Glasgow air is thick with mystery.

"The atmosphere of RED ROAD is the bleakest I’ve seen since Kieslowski’s DECALOGUE. No doubt the setting of the projects has a lot to do with my comparison. Part way through the film I realized there were subtitles although the film is in English. The Scottish accents are indeed a bit thick but not as difficult to tune into as some British accents. 4 cats"

Michael says: "In the mad dash to see as many eligible films as possible before nominating, I finally caught up with an early 2007 release that I had been looking forward to seeing. RED ROAD is a Scottish film directed by first-timer Andrea Arnold. It’s part of a movement called Advance Party, a partnership between the Glasgow Film Office and Zentropa, the Danish company responsible for the Dogme 95 movement. Lone Scherfig (ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS) and Anders Thomas Jensen (AFTER THE WEDDING) conceived the characters and the rules guiding a trilogy of films that must conform to a list of rules. Among those rules are the same characters and cast must be present in the films, although their status as lead or supporting characters can change. All the films must take place in Glasgow. All the films must be directed by first-time directors. And so on. I will be very interested to see how the subsequent films turn out after such an intense kick-off that firmly cement several characters into place.

RED ROAD focuses on Jackie, a young woman who works for a security firm with an elaborate network of cameras through which she monitors her corner of Glasgow, a phone call away from the police to keep those under her gaze safe. One day she sees a man from her past on camera and becomes obsessed with meeting him again. There are abundant clues about her life when she knew this man, but they are carefully and gradually revealed. As the two grow closer, much of the past story can be pieced together, but the results of their meeting are nearly impossible to predict. Arnold, who wrote the screenplay based on the characters created by Scherfig and Jensen, does a sublimely natural job of revealing the mystery a piece at a time. There isn’t much dialogue, and what there is requires some concentration due to the thick Scottish dialect. Arnold makes great use of the security cameras to set the tone of the film and establish Jackie’s character without dialogue. Visually RED ROAD is fascinating, and the acting is strong too, a necessity for such a powerful story. Relative newcomer Kate Dickie, with her thin to gaunt frame gives just enough away through her eyes to keep the audience just a few steps behind. She underplays some of the stronger emotions to great effect. Chlotrudis nominee Nathalie Press (MY SUMMER OF LOVE) appears in a supporting role, and I can only imagine that one of the subsequent films will focus on her character.

RED ROAD is available on DVD, and if you have time for another delivery before nominating, I would encourage you to check it out. It’s a wonderful pick for Buried Treasure as well. 4 ½ cats"