Director/writer Ciaran Foy’s first feature is a thoughtfully disturbing examination of many of today’s global ills: neglected children turning into monsters, religious leaders who have long ago lost their faith, ghettoizing the poor, unchecked mutating diseases and shunning the different amongst us.
Aside from a serious flaw in the opening sequence (no spoilers here), the truly fantastic narrative unfolds in a credible, deeply dark manner. At the root of everything is fear—particularly agoraphobia.
After helplessly witnessing a brutal act of violence to loved ones, Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) gradually shuts himself into a persona of panic that threatens to leave him and his new daughter holed up in a pathetic hostel forever. Despite taking group therapy to help the earnest young man stare down his enemies (imagined or real), Tommy continues to look at the ground, hunch his shoulders and shuffle rather than walk. Naïve social worker Maria (Wunmi Mosaku) takes the hurting dad under her wing only to see much more than her hopes dashed when demonstrating just how harmless the local band of feral children really is.
Desperate to find and somehow confront his tormentors, Tommy is forced to become an uneasy ally with the local vicar (James Cosmo). They eventually team up to destroy the lost children whose citadel is none other than a condemned, rotting high-rise which—just nine months before—was the scene of Tommy’s worst nightmare.
Virtually carrying the entire film on his shoulders, Barnard turns in a riveting performance: his inner demons are palpable—reinforced with a visage that speaks volumes and bulging eyes that can’t fail to chill all viewers to the bone.
The most compelling and convincing metaphor comes in the form of Danny (delicately rendered by Jake Wilson): oh so young, yet wiser than his few years; he accepts his blindness with a stoicism seldom seen in those decades older. Working through a night from hell (with a planned blackout, no less, to further obscure the evil they must face), Tommy and Danny artfully master role reversal.
Foy eases towards an ending that is in never in doubt, yet demonstrates the too-seldom found ability to leave attentive viewers with much to think about far after fade to black.
Special mention goes to cellist Susan Seligman’s for her stellar contributions to tomandandy’s score. JWR