Jackie Morrison (Kate Dickie) is a surveillance camera operator in Glasgow, observing a bleak public housing cluster. When she recognizes Clyde Henderson (Tony Curran), a dark secret is unleashed and she is aghast that he has been freed before his 10 year prison term has expired. Feeling compelled to confront him, despite never wanting to have seen him again, Jackie maneuvers herself into his narrow orbit and undertakes a plan that is meant to put him back behind bars.
Review by Louise Keller:
A brilliantly conceived thriller that keeps us guessing right up to the very end, Red Road intrigues but frustrates by its slow development and often incomprehensible Scottish dialogue. This debut feature for Andrea Arnold that won the 2006 Cannes Grand Jury Prize spends much of its two hour running time in establishing the characters before hitting us with the unexpected and powerful revelations at the film's end. The set up is terrific as we, together with the protagonist, start watching the town's activities through the eye of the security cameras. We may not know what we are looking for, but we are fascinated. The central performances are raw and potent and the final revelation, sensational, although as a whole the film falls short of satisfying.
'S**t happens every day - that's life,' says Tony Curran's Clyde tells Kate Dickie's Jackie. Jackie is a surveillance operator whose eyes are glued to the many screens that delve where no-one expects to be seen. It's somewhat voyeuristic as she watches a man taking his bulldog for a walk, smiles when the fat woman sings as she puts out the rubbish and can't take her eyes off the surreptitious lovers have sex by a secluded building. But soon, we realise that Jackie is looking for something specific, as she pours over tapes and starts to take an interest in a rough, tough red-haired man who works for a 24 hour locksmith. With tight close ups of Jackie's eye as she watches the tapes, Arnold repeatedly accentuates the importance of the process of watching. To our amazement, Jackie leaves her post and follows the man she is watching, and in doing so, puts herself into the picture. We know little about her. She wears a wedding ring but lives alone and has a regular clumsy, unsatisfying sexual encounter with a married man.
There is silence for much of the film as we, like Jackie, are simply watching. As her involvement with Clyde becomes more intense, there's a torrid and explicit sex scene before a revelation. Matching the mood, the setting is bleak and the dense. Arnold's brilliant but flawed film is filled with confusion, emotion, shock value and a final twist that makes the journey remarkable.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
One of the most talked about films at Cannes 2006 (and the Jury Prize winner), Red Road is indeed worthy of discussion, at least for its tactic of being an excruciating tease, a relentless mystery that unfolds very minimally near the end. Andrea Arnold's debut (she's 45) comes out of the blue - or should that be out of the grey ... of Glasgow's Red Road housing estate. It's not about public housing, much less about Glasgow. It's about grief, revenge, loss - and possibly about some feminist sexual theory, judging by a graphic sex scene that is confronting for some, but also intriguing for its treatment. Sadly, this is no place for a discourse on that subject since it would give away far too much.
My reservations and my admiration are roughly in equal proportion; I dislike the inordinately drawn out first act, which gives nothing away, not even character, never mind story. I am suspicious of such overt manipulation of the audience, especially when the pay-off doesn't justify it. There is a loss of tension that starts to dilute the film's drama. I also dislike the way the fundamental elements of the story are revealed. In line with the hyper-naturalistic production, heavy Glaswegian accents mean that dialogue is often lost. It may or may not matter, but it's frustrating. The Dogma-ish production is not surprising, since the lead characters have been developed by Dogma's Advance Party initiative; these characters will appear in two more low budget debut features.
I do like the premise and the rigorous discipline of shooting the surveillance cameras without enhanced imagery. The raw truth of these low-grade watchdog cameras offer us more thought provoking elements than the film's central theme, which is a tad derivative. I also like the gritty realism of the film's portrayal of Glasgow. This is no travelogue.
Kate Dickie as Jackie is directed to keep her emotions pretty much under wraps, except for a couple of key scenes, and the result is a muted emotional journey, especially considering the inflammatory nature of the secret trigger for it all.
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RED ROAD (R)
CAST: Kate Dickie, Tony Curran, Martin Compston, Nathalie Press, Andrew Armour
PRODUCER: Carrie Comeford
DIRECTOR: Andrew Arnold
SCRIPT: Andrea Arnold, Anders Thomas Jensen, Lone Scherfig
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robbie Ryan
EDITOR: Nicolas Chaudeurge
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Helen Scott
RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Arkles
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 11, 2007