Auds willing to wade through an opening stretch of off-putting obfuscation can get caught up in the riptide of "Jetsam," a time-tripping, p.o.v.-shifting thriller likely to generate not-entirely-unjustified comparisons to "Memento."

Auds willing to wade through an opening stretch of off-putting obfuscation can get caught up in the riptide of “Jetsam,” a time-tripping, p.o.v.-shifting thriller likely to generate not-entirely-unjustified comparisons to “Memento.” Brit indie production will be a tricky sell for a venturesome distrib, and pose an even bigger challenge to critics who, like it or hate it, will be hard-pressed to provide a precis of the plot without revealing too much, or even hinting too strongly. Pic may play best in ancillary streams.

Moodily confusing opening scenes focus on a young woman (Alex Reid, “The Descent”) who’s unable to remember anything about her past after she’s washed ashore on a deserted beach.

The good news: A man (Jamie Draven) washed onto the same beach seems to know who she is. The bad news: As soon as he sees her, he tries to choke her.

As she flees this dangerous stranger, the woman tries to piece together her identity — and discern why she’s on this particular beach, pursued by this particular guy — from clues offered in flashbacks. Paranoia kicks in as she gradually realizes she cannot trust anyone or anything, not even her own memory.

Reid engages aud’s sympathy with a compelling performance, while writer-director Simon Welsford builds and sustains suspense after a wobbly start. (Of course, to be entirely fair, that start might not seem nearly so wobbly during a second viewing.) There’s an ingenious twist at the midway point, but to say more than that would be grossly unfair; suffice it to say that, overall, pic can be read as a cautionary fable directed at those who put too much of themselves into their work.

Reportedly shot in just 14 days, “Jetsam” benefits greatly from atmosphere-enhancing contributions by lenser Zac Nicholson, composer Mat Davidson and editor Ned Baker.

Jetsam

U.K.

Production

A Skyman Films production. Produced by Sonny Deville, Simon Welsford. Directed, written by Simon Welsford.

Crew

Camera (color, HD video), Zac Nicholson; editor, Ned Baker; music, Mat Davidson; art director, Julian Nagel; sound, Sam Pullen. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, Jan. 20, 2008. (In Slamdance Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 84 MIN.

With

Alex Reid, Jamie Draven, Shauna Macdonald, Cal MacAninch, Adam Shaw.
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