You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Daphne’

A misanthropic woman who witnesses a brutal stabbing takes time to develop empathy – and never really shakes her complete lack of appealing characteristics.

Emily Beecham, Geraldine James, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Nathaniel Martello-White, Sinead Matthews, Ritu Arya, Ragevan Vasan.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5467554/reference

Did director Peter Mackie Burns and his scriptwriter, Nico Mensinga, mean to make their protagonist one of the more unpleasant characters in recent memory? Presumably not, since Daphne (Emily Beecham, “Into the Badlands”) incongruously has really nice guys falling over her, but maybe the filmmakers simply wanted to say something about how desperate heterosexual male Londoners are these days. “Daphne” tracks a misanthropic 31-year-old chef who witnesses a stabbing; audiences are meant to notice a change in her perspective after the trauma, but the movie fails to make us believe the event has had any impact, and Daphne remains almost as unappealing at the end as she was at the beginning. Sure, Beecham is good, but who wants to spend time with this woman? Sales are unlikely to make an impact.

Clearly Daphne is having a personality crisis, apparent from the start when she’s snide to an old friend (Ritu Arya), later telling her she’s given up on people. That includes her persistent mother, Rita (Geraldine James), beaten back every time she tries to engage with her daughter. Instead, Daphne reads Slavoj Žižek (oooh, she’s an intellectual!) and keeps the world at a distance. The only person she maintains any kind of friendship with is her restaurant-owner boss Joe (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), a decent chap who, for unfathomable reasons, is in love with the acerbic cook. Maybe it’s her red hair?

One night she witnesses a convenience store clerk (Amra Mallassi) get stabbed by a thug. Daphne cowers, and when the coast is clear, calls for an ambulance. Life goes on, and, as she tells the shrink offered by victim-support, she didn’t really feel anything for the guy and hasn’t bothered to check up on him in the hospital.  She seems slightly uneasy with her lack of empathy, and maybe she’s drinking a bit more than usual, but viewers aren’t able to tell whether she’s pricklier than before, or just the same.

After being extremely nasty to David (Nathaniel Martello-White), a respectful bartender she verbally abuses when he won’t let her back in a club, you’d think he’d never want to see her again, but for reasons that will escape everyone, he asks her out after a meet-cute at a market. David is charming and warm, so why would he pursue such a curmudgeon? By the end, we’re meant to believe Daphne has softened a bit, that the stabbing has finally triggered a humanistic trip-wire and she’s going to become a better person. Not likely, given how her character has been constructed from the start.

Obviously a sudden shift wouldn’t be believable, and subtle catharses are always more effective than instant ones, but Burns gives us nothing to work with here. Presumably there was a time when Daphne was more engaged with the world, but it’s barely acknowledged, nor is there any explanation as to why she’s fallen into this hole (could it be too much Žižek?). Burns has proven his talent and sensitivity before, notably with the Golden Bear-winning short “Milk,” and there are some notable directorial touches here, such as a shot of Daphne on a descending escalator, her face refracted in numerous mirror panels. It couldn’t have been easy for Beecham to live with this character, and to her credit she doesn’t try to make her likable; the real mystery is why anyone wants so much as a coffee with this character.

Film Review: 'Daphne'

Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Limelight), Jan. 28, 2017. (Also in EFM, SXSW film festivals.) Running time: 87 MIN.

Production: (UK) An Altitude Film Distribution release of a The Bureau Film Co. production. (International sales: Le Bureau Sales, Paris.) Producers: Valentina Brazzini, Tristan Goligher. Executive producers: Robbie Allen, Rosie Crerar, Lizzie Francke, Vincent Gadelle.

Crew: Director: Peter Mackie Burns. Screenplay: Nico Mensinga. Camera (color, widescreen): Adam Scarth. Editor: Nick Emerson.

With: Emily Beecham, Geraldine James, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Nathaniel Martello-White, Sinead Matthews, Ritu Arya, Ragevan Vasan.

More Film

  • Come as You Are review

    SXSW Film Review: 'Come as You Are'

    The rare remake that’s actually a slight improvement on its predecessor, Richard Wong’s “Come as You Are” translates Geoffrey Enthoven’s 2011 Belgian “Hasta la Vista” to middle America. Other changes are less substantial, but this seriocomedy has a less formulaic feel than the original while remaining a crowd-pleasing buddy pic-caper with a soft-pedaled minority empowerment [...]

  • Strange Negotiations review

    SXSW Film Review: 'Strange Negotiations'

    In a era when some mainstream entertainers have transitioned to targeting faith-based audiences, David Bazan is moving in the other direction. The gifted songwriter’s ersatz band Pedro the Lion was perhaps the most successful Christian indie rock act of its time, and the first to significantly cross over to secular fans. Then he ditched that persona (and [...]

  • Bluebird review

    SXSW Film Review: ‘Bluebird’

    As affectionate as a love letter but as substantial as an infomercial, Brian Loschiavo’s “Bluebird” may be of most interest to casual and/or newly converted country music fans who have occasionally wondered about the songwriters behind the songs. There’s a better than even-money chance that anyone who’s a loyal and longtime aficionado of the musical [...]

  • ‘Wonder Park’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad

    ‘Wonder Park’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending for the Fourth Week in a Row

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv, Paramount Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the fourth week in row with “Wonder Park.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.18 million through Sunday for 1,718 national [...]

  • Michael B. Jordan Jordan Vogt-Roberts

    Film News Roundup: Michael B. Jordan, Jordan Vogt-Roberts Team for Monster Movie

    In today’s film news roundup, Michael B. Jordan is producing a creature feature, billiards champ Cisero Murphy is getting a movie, the sixth Terminator movie gets a title, and Graham King receives an honor. PROJECT UNVEILED More Reviews SXSW Film Review: 'Come as You Are' SXSW Film Review: 'Strange Negotiations' New Regency and Michael B. [...]

  • Nicolas Cage

    Nicolas Cage to Star in Martial Arts Actioner 'Jiu Jitsu'

    Nicolas Cage will star in the martial arts actioner “Jiu Jitsu,” based on the comic book of the same name. The cast will also include Alain Moussi, who stars in the “Kickboxer” franchise. Dimitri Logothetis is producing with Martin Barab and directing from a script he wrote with Jim McGrath. Highland Film Group is handling [...]

  • Chinese success of Thai film "Bad

    Chinese, Thai Shingles Pact for Co-Production Fund at FilMart

    A deal to establish a 100 million yuan ($14.9 million) co-production fund between China and Thailand was struck at FilMart on Tuesday to help launch TV and film projects that will appeal to Chinese and Southeast Asian audience. The deal that was struck by China’s Poly Film Investment Co., TW Capital from Thailand and Thai [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content