Misjudged, London-set thriller featuring a stand-out turn from Aidan Gillen
Photographer Tom Carver (Aidan Gillen) is mired in grief after the death of his teenage son, numbing his pain with drugs and alcohol. After an accidental run-in with a local youth, Tom finds himself the target of a senseless revenge campaign and what's left of his life soon begins to unravel.
As a portrait of a man being steadily consumed by grief, Still has moments of devastating power – Tom's unmasked emotions as he is confronted with pictures of his son, and him seeking liquid solace in his dark room sanctuary – all handled beautifully by Gillen, an actor of extraordinary range. When the film veers from this emotional intensity to confront the wider issue of modern gang culture, however, it becomes altogether murkier.
London, as imagined by debut writer-director Simon Blake, is an entirely unpleasant environment populated by feral youths stuffing faeces through letterboxes, ineffective, smirking coppers, and tabloid journos moonlighting as moral vigilantes. It's an urban narrative hewn from cliché, riddled with overwrought dialogue – 'How many times are you going to let these fuckers piss on you before you realise you're wet?' – melodramatic confrontations, a schizophrenic soundtrack and too-tight framing.
Meant to reflect Tom's fractured state, this heavy-handed approach severely undermines the genuine emotions which should be driving this narrative. While we may understand Tom's motivations, the same cannot be said for those around him, including his teen tormentors. This is particularly unforgivable when it comes to the sexual brutality suffered by Tom's girlfriend Christina (Elodie Yung), presented as a throwaway act with no direct consequence. The film's climax, when it comes, is equally as inconceivable, and provides no validation for all this suffering. Perhaps this is entirely the point, but Still ultimately feels like an interesting idea that's been beaten into submission by a filmmaker looking to make an impact, rather than tell a story.
Selected release from Fri 8 May.