In this modern age of budding directors each trying to earn their place in the pantheon of cinema, it is often difficult for a fledgling filmmaker to make his mark on the world. It takes a certain something to show your worth and stand out from the crowd.
Through his striking debut feature, Malady, British writer/director Jack James certainly makes his voice heard, presenting us with the dark tale of the fatally destructive relationship between two grieving young people, each struggling with the loss of a family member. Initially exploring the comfort in shared solace between our characters, events rapidly take a much darker turn as the protagonist discovers that his mother is soon also to die.
With a cast of only three characters, each sharing very few actual word through the course of the film`s run, it falls to some fantastic acting from the leads to drive the film, none moreso than Roxy Bulger, whose delicate portrayal of the grieving Holly provides the majority of the narrative. Through the film, Bulger subtly manages to express every stage of grieving, taking the viewer along in her ultimately touching yet shocking journey to eventual, yet somewhat dismal, acceptance. Kemal Yildrim, meanwhile, plays the stoic, bedraggled Matthew, ever-battered by his over-bearing mother. His performance, though almost wordless, is enchanting, proving that sometimes a single tear can be a thousand times more powerful than even the most eloquently-written monologue.
It is, however, Jill Connick`s performance as Matthew`s ailing mother that truly shines. A religious zealot and self-confessed puppy drowner, Lorelai is a malicious, manipulative force set upon the destruction of her family through whatever means of persuasion her dying body can muster. Connick is throughout a tyrannical figure trapped in the small frame of an old woman, whilst at the same time displaying some beautifully intoxicating moments of tenderness when needed. Indeed, one has to wonder how an actress of such aptitude has never become a household name.
On an aesthetic level, James captures the bleak plight of our protagonists through a deep knowledge and love of his art; each frame is thought out to a tee, and despite the film`s sexual nature, it never comes across as crass or exploitative, showing a truly succinct connection between director and actors. Coupled with Bradley Oliver-White`s intelligent score, we have a feast or both sight and sound.
Although certainly not a piece for mainstream audiences, Malady will certainly garner interest from the festival circuit, and I for one am intrigued to see what Mr James has up his sleeve next!
Dir: Jack James
Scr: Jack James
Starring: Roxy Bugler, Kemal Yildrim, Jill Connick
Prd: Anna Katherine Castrejon, Gareth Foster, Jack James, Ben Mullen, David Valley, Lee Whiteway, Kemal Yildrim
DOP: Jack James
Music: Bradley Oliver-White
Run Time: 101 mins
Malady will be featured at festivals over the next year