Dirty God (4 stars)

Dirty God

A young woman deals with the aftermath of an acid attack in this riveting drama from Sacha Polak

A young woman is scarred by an acid attack in this London-set drama from Dutch filmmaker Sacha Polak, co-written by Susie Farrell. In a topical move, Polak has cast an actress who has real facial scarring: Vicky Knight, who was burned in a fire as a child. Newcomer Knight puts in a sensitive, understated performance as Jade, a mother and party girl who finds it hard to settle back into either role after her appearance is drastically altered – never mind the trauma of having been disfigured by the actions of her own boyfriend.

In the tradition of social realist films like Fish Tank, Dirty God is light on exposition and heavy on naturalistic dialogue, presenting a riveting portrait of the daily life of a working-class woman experiencing a radical life change. But there's something even bolder about this film: Jade isn't defined by her situation, and it's unusual and empowering to see her having online sex with strangers. This is tinged with sadness, though: dim lighting and distance is the only way she can feel comfortable.

Other sex scenes are quietly ground-breaking, if ethically challenging; Polak refuses to judge her characters, despite actions that some might deem selfish or uncaring. Jade's best friend Shami (Rebecca Stone) is equally complex, and all the more real for it – her compassion dwindling at the sight of a club night or a hot guy (such as singer-turned-actor Bluey Robinson, who plays Naz). Don't come here for a heart-warming feminist buddy movie: like it or not, this is how young women sometimes behave.

Dirty God isn't always an easy watch, but it's a rewarding one that marks both Knight and Polak as exceptional talents. It also challenges preconceptions about conventional attractiveness in an elegant and thought-provoking way. It's the movie we need in 2019. More, please.

Selected release from Fri 7 Jun.

Dirty God

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • The Netherlands / UK / Belgium / Ireland
  • 1h 44min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Sacha Polak
  • Cast: Vicky Knight, Katherine Kelly, Eliza Brady-Girard

Jade (Knight) is a mother and party girl who finds it hard to settle back into life after being scarred in an acid attack. Newcomer Knight (who herself has real scars) puts in a sensitive, understated performance and the film elegantly challenges preconceptions about conventional attractiveness. Not always an easy watch…