×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Malady’

Two lonely souls find each other, but the results are more harrowing than joyful in Jack James' striking debut feature.

With:
Roxy Bugler, Kemal Yildirim, Jill Connick, Gary Cross, Ellen Carter, Nicola Wright.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2602338/

The course of true love is awfully sinister in “Malady,” an intense, impressionistic portrait of two lonely English souls who find one another — though there’s more desperation than joy in their union, and halfway through the introduction of a parental figure drags this already discomfiting tale toward Grand Guignol territory. Short on explication, arguably more cryptic than necessary, this is nonetheless an arresting narrative-feature debut for British helmer Jack James (“A Thousand Faces”). It will prove a challenge in commercial terms, but should stir interest while raising the principal collaborators’ profiles in fest travel and new-director showcases.

Initially scrambling its chronology to a disorienting degree, the pic nonetheless makes its starting point clear: Keeping vigil at her mother’s deathbed, Holly (Roxy Bugler) is urged to go out and find love, having presumably avoided all such prospects during the long illness. She takes that advice with guileless literalism, spying bearded, pallid Matthew (Kemal Yildirim, also a U.K. indie writer-director) through a restaurant window. Almost without exchanging words, these strangers are compulsively drawn into a “one-night stand” that lasts days, its bottomless psychosexual hunger conveyed in blunt physical terms.

When they finally part because Holly has other commitments, she has a tense meeting with an apparent sibling (Gary Cross). He’s strangely hostile and suspicious toward news of her new “boyfriend,” despite their own estrangement until now. “I just want us to be a family,” he says. But she wants no part of him — Matthew is already her entire world, with no room for broken ties from the past.

That rule does not extend to Matthew’s past, however, at least in Holly’s mind. When he repeatedly refuses to answer his phone, she impulsively answers for him, then after a short conversation (unheard by us) reports that his mother is dying and “she needs you.” Matthew is extremely reluctant to go. We soon learn why: Doleful, skeletal Lorelei (Jill Connick) is a terror, who wastes little time before horrifying her son’s mate with tales of drowning pets who “got pregnant without God’s consent.” It’s a short leap from that to her telling Holly: “You’re a creator of evil and a child of Satan.”

It’s unclear whether this woman is a religious fanatic, simply insane, or both. What is clear is that she’s a hurricane of psychological damage that broke Matthew long ago; the last thing he needed was a fresh onslaught. Yet Holly persists in attempting to mediate between them, blinded by her own need for family. This can’t end well, and it doesn’t, leading to a couple of murky, violently transgressive acts.

Fearsomely committed performances by the principals are heightened further by James’ lensing, which is intimate to the brink of distortion — favoring extreme closeups and fields of woozily uneven focus. His astute editing likewise adds considerably to a dislocative, uneasy atmosphere, as does Bradley Oliver-White’s score, whose elements of drone, dissonance and musique concrete sometimes blend with the few cannily selected various-artist tracks.

This aesthetic package’s psychological dimensions are at once vivid and mysterious — an impact that may not fully compensate for those viewers ultimately frustrated by the pic’s stubborn resistance to greater character development/backgrounding, let alone the odd moments when seemingly key dialogue is almost unintelligible. For others, though, the unique clammy force of “Malady’s” claustrophobic bad vibes will outweigh the nagging questions its narrative leaves behind.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Malady'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, March 6, 2015. (In Cinequest Film Festival.) Running time: 101 MIN.

Production: (U.K.) A Realist Prods. presentation in association with Brujo Prods. Produced by Jack James, Kemal Yildirim. Executive producers, Lee Whiteway, Gareth Foster, Ben Mullen, Juan Carvajal, Anna Katherine Castrejon, David Valley.

Crew: Directed, written, edited by Jack James. Camera (color, HD), James; music, Bradley Oliver-White; art director, Gareth Haynes; sound, Alexander Scott, Alexander Kelly; assistant director, Gareth Haynes.

With: Roxy Bugler, Kemal Yildirim, Jill Connick, Gary Cross, Ellen Carter, Nicola Wright.

More Film

  • Box Office Mojo new

    Box Office Mojo Site Transformed by IMDbPro

    BoxOfficeMojo.com has been transformed into an IMDbPro site, losing some of its free features. The Amazon-owned site, which had previously operated free of charge, was given a new look with its header reading “Box Office Mojo by IMDb Pro.” Information such as breakdowns by genre is now only available behind the IMDbPro paywall. The Box [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Hocus Pocus' Sequel in Development at Disney Plus

    Disney Plus has launched development of a sequel to 1993’s fantasy comedy “Hocus Pocus” with “Workaholics” writer and co-producer Jen D’Angelo on board to script. The original “Hocus Pocus” starred Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as a trio of witch sisters who have been cursed since 1693 in Salem, Ma. The witches [...]

  • Lady Gaga

    Variety Wins 2019 Eppy Award for Best Digital Magazine

    Variety has won two Eppy Awards from Editor & Publisher, including Best Digital Magazine and Best Collaborative Investigative/Enterprise Feature for “American (In)Justice” — a collaboration with fellow PMC property Rolling Stone. “American (In)Justice” also tied with USA Today’s “Copy, Paste, Legislate” collaboration with The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity. Variety has provided [...]

  • Joker Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

    Box Office: Villains Face Off Again as 'Joker' and 'Maleficent' Battle for First Place

    Despite three new nationwide releases, domestic box office charts look to be dominated by holdovers — Warner Bros.’ “Joker” and Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” — during the last weekend in October. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” debuted last weekend with $36 million in North America, enough to dethrone “Joker” after the super-villain origin story’s back-to-back [...]

  • Yasushi Shiina

    Tokyo Market is Finding New Strengths, Says Yasushi Shiina

    Clouds on the global economic horizon and disruption to the scheduling of the event, have done little to dampen the interest of foreign visitors to TIFFCOM, Japan’s biggest film and TV market. Especially those from China, says market head, Yasushi Shiina. The market is again running at the Sunshine City shopping, entertainment and business complex [...]

  • "Weathering With You" directed by Makoto

    Toho Unveils Dual Media Romance 'Love Me, Love Me Not' at Tokyo Market

    Japan’s biggest film company, which produces, distributes and exhibits its own product in partnership with leading media companies, Toho has brought a line-up to TIFFCOM full of present and future hits. The biggest is “Weathering with You,” the love story animation by Makoto Shinkai that surpassed the $100 million mark only a month after its [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content