The Redeeming Movie Review
Written by Rachel Knightley
Released by Osmium Films
Directed by Brian Barnes
Written by Roger Thomas
2018, 85 minutes, Not yet rated
Horror on Sea world premiere on 28th January 2018
Tracey Ann Wood as Joyce Hadley
Ryan Wichert as John Simons
Robert Blackwood as Doctor Hadley
An intense and tender psychological thriller, written by Roger Thomas and directed by Brian Barnes. Tracey Ann Wood plays Joyce, who we meet through a montage of gently articulate moonlit images setting the physical and emotional landscape of a sad, isolated woman. She’s alone in her home, and her relationship to the silence around her suggests the husband and son in her photos and memories are dead. This succeeds both as a dark, atmospheric opening and an intriguing illustration of a mind interrupted: during a power cut, Joyce falls asleep on the sofa. She’s woken by a young man banging on the front door. John (compellingly innocent, quietly complex Ryan Wichert) claims to be injured, with a broken arm and in need of help. Semi-persuaded, Joyce lets John in from the cold but continues to behave defensively of her home and, increasingly, her own statements. Her husband and car will be home in the morning, she says, so she will be able to drive John to a doctor. Our initial fears that John’s presence is an unlikely chance are never quite quashed, even as we realise he is only nineteen and a long way from home. Assumptions of Joyce’s victimhood start to erode with mixed visual messages about who is or will be the victim. The emerging power struggle – for John’s survival and Joyce’s grip on reality – seesaws with wit and intelligence between two excellently cast, well-matched performers.
Although this script is so character-driven and location-based it might have been written for stage rather than screen, a great strength of The Redeeming is how comfortable it is with giving information purely visually. Shared feelings, realisations and memories are reflected in subtle moves and cuts, so the script’s tendency to over-explain character and situation is a surprise. The major fault is therefore closely related to its major strength: Dialogue in the first and second acts is often clunky and repetitive, over-establishing character; it doesn’t trust its audience to pick up the wealth of information it so articulately establishes visually. The comedy moments that build character and tension become underwhelming through repetition rather than lack of connection or conviction, with far too much time spent with Joyce displaying how quirky/mad she is. It is no fault of the performance that this falls unnecessarily close to caricature. Indeed, the unfortunately saggy middle to the action is saved by a touching monologue as Joyce describes a death she witnessed in childhood – an anecdote that potentially explains her behaviour without revealing anything that spoils the pay-offs.
The final act more than makes up for loss of pace as we get on with the plot and back to the internal conflict of Joyce’s memories. The truth of who John is and what kind of danger he poses is hinted at to the extent of being almost stating it, so it’s no spoiler when I praise Robert Blackwood’s late entrance as the Doctor. It is the authenticity of their responses to each other (once freed from the forced comedy of the middle) that packs the climax with emotional truth that, even with the continued tendency to over-explain, brings a sense of redemption that justifies its title.