×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Fynbos

There is more mood than matter to appreciate in "Fynbos," a low-key suspenser that masterfully sustains tension with elliptical storytelling and evocative atmospherics, but ultimately comes across as all buildup and no payoff.

With:
With: Warrick Grier, Jessica Haines, Susan Danford, Sthandiwe Kgoroge, Cara Roberts, John Herbert, Chad Philips.

There is more mood than matter to appreciate in “Fynbos,” a low-key suspenser that masterfully sustains tension with elliptical storytelling and evocative atmospherics, but ultimately comes across as all buildup and no payoff. Despite ace production values — lensing and sound design are particularly effective — this South African-produced pic isn’t likely to travel far beyond the global fest circuit.

Opening scenes establish the mental instability of Meryl (Jessica Haines), who fakes her own mugging for unexplained reasons, strongly suggesting that nothing else she recounts, not even the brutality of her husband, Richard (Warrick Grier), which she references in her journal, should be accepted at face value.

Still, it’s easy to believe Richard, an insolvent real-estate developer, is capable of violent rages, given his steadily increasing stress as he attempts (and fails) to hide his desperation while trying to unload the Fynbos Estate, a luxurious glass house and surrounding land near a remote township. Hoping to sell the place to two Brit siblings (Susan Danford, John Herbert), he invites the pair to spend the night at Fynbos with him, Meryl, part-time house-sitter VJ (Chad Philips) and VJ’s brazenly sexy girlfriend Renee (Cara Roberts).

Richard is so intent on closing the deal that he’s slow to react when Meryl disappears from the secluded estate. That, or he hesitates to call the cops because, for one reason or another, he doesn’t want her to be found.

All the lead players convey intriguing ambiguities, some more intriguing than others, while Sthandiwe Kgoroge makes the most of a key supporting role — a politely inquisitive police officer — by hinting that she, too, may be holding a few cards close to her vest. Pacing is aptly deliberate, as helmer Harry Patramanis, working from a spare script he co-wrote with Jonathan Kyle Glatzer, makes efficient use of pregnant pauses and ambient sound.

Ultimately, however, “Fynbos” doesn’t come to a conclusion so much as simply end, abruptly, in a manner certain to frustrate auds who get caught up in its idiosyncratic rhythms.

Fynbos

South Africa

Production: A Four Letter Word production. Produced by Eleni Asvesta. Co-producers, Stefanos Fotiadis, Marios Fotiadis, Philip Key. Directed by Harry Patramanis. Screenplay, Jonathan Kyle Glatzer, Patramanis.

Crew: Camera (color), Dieter Deventer; editor, Yorgos Mavtopsaridis; music, Coti K.; production designer, Jeremy Argue; costume designer, Diana Cilliers; sound, Leandros Ntounis; stunt coordinator, Anthony Mo Marasi; associate producer, Hofmeyr Scholtz; assistant directors, Emmanouela Fragkiadaki; Westley Durand; casting, Moonyeenn Lee. Reviewed online, Houston, Jan. 20, 2013. (In Slamdance Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 96 MIN.

With: With: Warrick Grier, Jessica Haines, Susan Danford, Sthandiwe Kgoroge, Cara Roberts, John Herbert, Chad Philips.

More Film

  • Lisa Borders Time's Up

    Time's Up President Lisa Borders Resigns

    Lisa Borders has resigned as president of Time’s Up, she and the organization announced on Monday. Borders is resigning due to family issues, she said in a statement. Time’s Up COO Rebecca Goldman will now serve as interim CEO. “As Time’s Up continues to grow, I am proud of the work I have done to [...]

  • Keira Knightly as "Rachael Morgan" in

    Film Review: Keira Knightley in 'The Aftermath'

    Less widely seen (and acclaimed) than it deserved to be, James Kent’s debut feature “Testament of Youth” was one of the great recent love-in-wartime dramas, translating the intimate romance and sprawling human tragedy of Vera Brittain’s WWI memoir with a grace and heft worthy of its David Lean allusions. Four years on, it’s not hard [...]

  • Inside Amazon's New Feature Film Strategy

    Amazon's New Film Strategy: Straight-to-Service Titles and Starry Sundance Buys

    It was close to midnight when Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke got the text. The company had failed in its quest to acquire “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” a body image dramedy that captivated Salke when she saw it at Sundance. A sales agent on the project messaged her to say that a competitor offered a [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

  • TorinoFilmLab Announces Selections for 2019 ScriptLab

    TorinoFilmLab Announces Selections for 2019 ScriptLab (EXCLUSIVE)

    The TorinoFilmLab has announced the 20 feature projects and five story editor trainees who have been selected to take part in the 2019 edition of ScriptLab, an initiative focused on the development of fiction feature film scripts in early development stage. Beginning in March, this year’s participants will team up with filmmakers from around the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    North American Box Office Declines From Last Year With Weak Presidents Day Weekend

    “Alita: Battle Angel” easily won a tepid Presidents Day weekend with a $34.2 million at 3,790 North American locations, estimates showed Monday. Overall domestic moviegoing for 2019 has plunged 22.1% to $1.24 billion as of Monday, according to Comscore. That’s $350 million below the same date a year ago and the lowest figure at this [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content