Stars: Gemma Arterton, Dominic Cooper, Frances Barber
Gemma Arterton gives a career best performance in this attentive and humane, if occasionally harrowing, portrait of depression from writer-director Dominic Savage. She is Tara, a stay at home mum of two, living in the London suburbs, married to the brash but clumsily affectionate upwardly mobile bloke Mark (Cooper). We follow Tara through her usual routine: a morning of joyless perfunctory sex; dropping off and picking the kids up from school; and repetitive housework. Although constantly told how lucky she is, Tara starts to feel increasingly alienated and becomes uncommunicative. Attempts to lift her out of her torpor, by her bitter divorced mother (Barber), and well-meaning but increasingly frustrated husband, only makes it worse. After a rare visit to London’s South Bank, where she purchases a book of French tapestries, Tara announces to Mark that she wishes to take up art classes. His response, while not unsupportive, is condescending. Eventually Tara makes a break, but her bid for freedom and independence brings its own problems. The washed-out colours of domesticity give way to warmer hues as she makes her escape. The subject matter coupled with the intense but empathetic treatment of the character’s encroaching depression, all intense close-ups and woozy hand held camerawork, suggests ‘Shirley Valentine’ re-imagined as a rich psychological drama by a British John Cassavetes. Despite her character’s emotional detachment, Arterton is able to effectively communicate Tara’s crisis through sudden glances and contorted body language. It’s such an accomplished performance that when the film moves from the kitchen sink milieu to a less assured dreamy feel in the latter part, audiences should go along too.