- Kevin Harley
- 25 February 2019
Andrea Pallaoro's enigmatic second feature acts as a magnetic showcase for the great Charlotte Rampling
From Assassin's Creed to Red Sparrow, Charlotte Rampling has appeared in some ill-fitting mainstream misfires in recent years. Although it has its flaws, this second feature from Italian writer-director Andrea Pallaoro (Medeas) is most definitely not one of them. Though too scrupulously enigmatic and reserved for its own good, it unfolds as a magnetic showcase for Rampling, whose powers of fine-tuned restraint and release sing out of every frame.
Rampling plays Hannah, a housekeeper for a Belgian family who becomes ostracised from friends and family following an undisclosed crime committed by her husband (André Wilms). We first see her in a drama class, emitting a primal scream; thereafter, Hannah's emotions remain largely bottled-up as we follow her from home to subway, swimming pool to prison. Post-trauma, she appears to be reassessing her life. But is she preparing for a fresh start, or for something darker?
Pallaoro and co-writer Orlando Tirado don't let on, preferring to present Hannah's ostracisation as a kind of austere anti-drama in which her gradual exclusion from everything is meticulously plotted. Heartbreakingly, her son rejects her from her grandson's birthday party, while an arguing couple on the subway ignore her impassive presence and her gym revokes her membership. Throughout, Hannah appears adrift in glumly lit compositions, where any splashes of colour seem to taunt her predicament.
Pallaoro's grip lets him down on occasion. A whale-based metaphor is thuddingly obvious; elsewhere, his studied determination to stifle Hannah's life seems to militate against her emergence as a three-dimensional human being. But Rampling disarms most doubts. She pitches her performance at such a quiet register that every nuanced blink of those heavy eyes suggests choppy currents of feeling beneath her slumped, guarded exterior. When the actress finally lets Hannah's emotional dam burst, the impact is all the more devastating for it, cutting through Pallaoro's enigmas in a howl of raw greatness.
Limited release from Fri 1 Mar.