A hotel right on the edge of Blighty’s famed white cliffs provides the striking setting for “Edge,” a slow-burning narrative debut from writer-director Carol Morley that connects the troubled lives of guests and employees. An attempted suicide, a past tragedy and an Internet assignation provide the key elements for an overly schematic crisscross setup that’s finally tied together with one whopping coincidence. Theatrical distribution will be a challenge, even on home turf, leaving “Edge” clinging to second-tier film festivals for further exposure.
Morley, who made her mark with several shorts and the self-exposing docu feature “The Alcohol Years” (2001), effectively exploits her wintry, edge-of-the-world location (Birling Gap, near Sussex’s Beachy Head). However, she fails to build a sturdy framework for drawn-from-life narrative strands that might have been more convincing had they not all been unspooling at the same time in the same place. The film is dedicated to the memory of Morley’s father, who took his own life when she was 11 years old, and the events clearly have a special meaning for her.
Senior citizen Wendy (Marjorie Yates) has arrived at the Cliff Edge Hotel with pills, rope and hairdryer offering multiple suicide options. Distracted Elly (Maxine Peake), obsessing over a fatal accident that occurred there 10 years prior, catches the eye of Glen (Paul Hilton), a washed-up former pop star who’s clearly uncomfortable in his own skin. Philip (Joe Dempsie, best known in the U.K. for TV’s “Skins”) whistles a tune that’s his only connection to his dead father. His hook-up with Sophie (Nichola Burley, “StreetDance 3D”), whom he met online, doesn’t go according to plan when she accuses him of past crimes and produces a blowtorch.
Despite the melodramatic overload, “Edge” proves only moderately gripping, and works better as an intriguing mood piece. The antics of a trio of female employees add some welcome whimsical comedy before a too-convenient final-act revelation implausibly ties up events and serial catharsis ensues. Resolutions might have been more satisfying had they been based on actual drama, rather than characters changing their minds or the appearance of a vital piece of evidence.
Attention-grabbing floral wallpaper in the hotel bedrooms provides a unifying visual aesthetic, while outside, the filmmakers effectively exploit a freak snowstorm, amplifying the sense of lost souls in isolation. At screening caught, digital print projected sound and image a few frames out of synch, giving the unfortunate impression of shoddy re-recorded dialogue in closeups.