Guild, grief and shame battle passion, love and lust as tarnished lovers Holly (Roxy Bugler) and Matthew (Kemal Yildrim) build a love/hate triangle that culminates in an ongoing battle that destroys both of them.
Completely psychological and often pornographic, Malady is an artistic portrayal of the growth and destruction of a loving relationship built out of grief and need. Director Jack James uses powerful and off-colour cinematography to tell his story; clearly a son of slow cinema and reminiscent of Tsai Ming-Liang, (though nowhere near as daringly boring) James utilises longing glances and focused eyes instead of dialogue for most of this feature. Dialogue is in fact very much in the minority and probably takes us less of Malady’s running time than does gratuitous sex. Whilst I’m not against sex scenes in cinema, even ones as graphic as Malady, they work best when they explore a character’s passion and lust, but when they’re so constant and visual they become tiring and wasteful. I understand what James was trying to portray in the sense that it was lust that held them together, but it felt rather like an artist who’s over-played his hand and was now just rubbing his perceived ‘boldness’ in the face of the audience.
Nonetheless, Malady remains one of the most poignant and ‘real’ performances I’ve seen for a long time. The relationship built between Holly and Matthew is not picturesque, it’s not Hollywood, but it is truly believable. These are broken people, who are searching for something, anything that might bring them happiness, but instead they’re lead to grief once more and the gritty, unfocused cinematography used by James captures this perfectly.
If you like artistic cinema then both Malady and Jack James are both worth checking out. But if you prefer to be excited and hooked, or…dialogue, then Malady is not for you. You’ll never forget you’ve watched it, but you won’t likely ever watch it again.
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