Sunday, November 13, 2011

Red Road

2006, 113 minutes, unrated
IMDB says… Jackie works as a CCTV operator. Each day she watches over a small part of the world, protecting the people living their lives under her gaze. One day a man appears on her monitor, a man she thought she would never see again, a man she never wanted to see again. Now she has no choice, she is compelled to confront him.

The 73rd Virgin says… I’m bemused by the synopsis that indicates that this kind of pervasive and completely realistic domestic surveillance is actually protecting anyone. I don’t remember seeing her prevent a crime, but we will leave that rant for another time.

Absent the assistance of the synopsis we start the movie watching a world-weary young woman in her public servant’s polyester sitting in a room watching video feeds from security cameras scattered over Edinburgh, Scotland. She observes petty crime, sad details of lonely lives, random violence, and all the joys of a city that appears to be entirely on the dole and looking for its next bottle of liquor and next interaction with a hooker.

For a while it gets really creepy as she thinks she recognizes a dark figure from her past showing up here and there. We don’t know what darkness he represents and we also don’t know whether she is stalking him for revenge or just as a weird obsession.  Then the story morphs into something less predictable but also less taut. To say much more would be a spoiler.

As we realize that what our heroine is watching on all those video monitors is not sinister, just grey and sad, we probably begin to root for her more, but the thriller aspect disappears, despite the best efforts of the blurb writers. Perhaps the pervasive sense of dread that overhangs the early scenes and then slowly dissipates as she interacts with her target is supposed to show her changing state of mind. If so, then good job.

There is probably a political subtext that I’m missing regarding how a low-level domestic surveillor can call in so many favors from her law enforcement buddies, and how that is ultimately a very chilling thing, but that gets lost in her individual drama of revenge and redemption, and, as best as I can tell, never gets addressed.

Since this was made by a production and direction team that was entirely female, the extended torrid full-frontal sex scene qualifies as NOT PORN. But I question whether a male production team could get away with the notion that what our heroine really needs is a “stiff gin and a good rogering” and still win the Cannes Festival Jury Prize as this did.

Kate Dickie is very appealing in the lead. She is obviously fairly youthful, at least when nekkid, but otherwise so haggard and mournful that she is heartbreaking. Well-known bad guy Tony Curran is convincing as an irresponsible yob who may or may not be the bête noire (oh the Virg didn’t do French, did he? Oh yes he did. He went there!) that he appears to be.

There is at least some redemption so that after 113 minutes it almost appears sunshiny. The sad socialist utopia that seemed to be eating into her bones is perhaps less ravenous.

The dialogue is marginally in English, but unless you’re from Scotland, you will need the provided subtitles.

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