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

  • Les Arcs's Co-Production Village Kicks Off

    Les Arcs's Co-Production Village Kicks Off 10th Edition

    Marylise Dumont’s “Black Dog,” Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen’s “Ashes and Snow” and “Each of Us” are among the 20 projects which will be pitched at the 10th edition of Les Arcs Film Festival’s Co-Production Village. The Co-Production Village will run alongside the festival which will be presided by Ruben Ostlund, the Swedish helmer of Palme d’Or-winning [...]

  • Maria Alché Debut ‘A Family Submerged’

    Visit Films Sells Key Territories with Maria Alché Debut ‘A Family Submerged’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID —  New York’s Visit Films announced at Buenos Aires’ Ventana Sur market, that the company has secured distribution in Mexico and Spain on Maria Alché’s directorial debut, “A Family Submerged.” In Mexico, the film was snagged by top indie production and distribution company Interior 13 Cine, distributors for Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra’s Colombian [...]

  • Macao

    'Clean Up' Takes Top Prize at Macao Festival and Awards

    Korean drama movie, “Clean Up” took the best film prize on Friday night at the closing ceremony of the International Film Festival and Awards Macao. The jury, which comprised Chen Kaige, Danis Tanovic, Mabel Cheung, Paul Currie, and Tillotama Shome, said: “’Clean Up’ is a powerful, visceral film which is symbolic and naturalistic at the [...]

  • Breaking Glass Snags Prizewinning Argentine Gay

    Ventana Sur: Breaking Glass Snags Argentine Gay Drama ‘Marilyn’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    In a last-minute deal inked at Ventana Sur, Breaking Glass Pictures (BGP) snapped up North American rights to gay-trans drama “Marilyn,” the feature debut of Argentine helmer-scribe Martin Rodríguez Redondo. The Philadelphia-based company has been on a mini-buying spree, having previously snagged threesome drama “We Are Three” at the Buenos Aires confab. BGP has bought [...]

  • Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in

    Paramount Inks Deal for Theme Park in South Korea

    Paramount Pictures has announced a deal to install a studio-branded theme park in an entertainment resort being developed in South Korea. The agreement was struck between Paramount and Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, which owns the Inspire Integrated Entertainment Resort in the South Korean city of Incheon. Mohegan has invested KRW 2.8 trillion ($2.4 billion) in [...]

  • Arca, Cacerola, Viento del Norte, Panda

    Arca, Cacerola, Viento del Norte, Panda Team on ‘Mental Health Not Included’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — In a return to film production after serving as president of Argentina’s National Institute of Film and the Audiovisual Arts (INCAA) and then as a member of parliament, film producer Liliana Mazure is teaming with prestigious counterparts in Mexico and Brazil on a three-part, pan-regional dark comedy, “Mental Health Not Included.” Lead [...]

  • IFFAM and Variety Celebrate Asian Talent

    IFFAM and Variety Celebrate Asian Talent Up Next

    The International Film Festival and Awards Macao and Variety combined forces for the second year running to put a spotlight on Asia’s acting talent. A well-attended meet-the-stars press event on Friday afternoon in Macau was addressed by leading local official, Maria Helena Senna de Fernandes. She turned the microphone over the five actors from different [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content