Kelly + Victor
A dark and brooding tale of obsessive love scuppered by shallow writing and a fragmented structure
A dark and brooding tale of obsessive love, Kieran Evans’ take on Niall Griffiths’ novel might just as easily be dubbed Last Tango in Liverpool. This Merseyside-set story begins as Victor (Julian Morris), out celebrating his 28th birthday at a nightclub, meets Kelly (Antonia Campbell-Hughes). Before long, they’re back at her place – buzzing off Class As and indulging in wild, dangerous sex. Is it the drugs? Or is there a real passion there?
Both Kelly and Victor are connected to those on the fringes. His mates (including William Ruane, the Glasgow-born actor last seen in Ken Loach’s The Angel’s Share) are small-time drug dealers. Her friend is a dominatrix – and one early scene sees Kelly taken along to verbally abuse a helpless punter. She’s not that into it, coming over all shy, but she seems to find her inner S&M tendencies when she hooks back up with Victor.
A film that requires two wholly committed performances from its stars, Evans gets this and more from Morris and Campbell-Hughes (who has already demonstrated an attraction for ‘difficult’ films, after featuring in The Other Side of Sleep). But there’s a singular lack of depth to the characters: we learn that Kelly’s father died and that she’s been in an abusive past relationship; that Victor lives in Anfield and has a sister. And that’s about it.
Then there’s the fragmented structure – notable in the aftermath of a crucial bedroom scene that arrives at the film’s mid-point, leaping on several days rather than showing us the immediate consequences. It’s typical of what is a frustrating and, at times, pretentious experience. Using his Liverpool locations well, Evans has a feel for mood, but it’d be wrong to mistake atmosphere for psychological depth; Kelly + Victor could’ve been so much more than what it ultimately achieves.