It Is In Us All: Review. By Daniel Pollock.
What does death bring for us? Is it something profound that connects every living creature on Earth, or simply the final stop on the tour? And how does it intersect with love, with lust, with a connection to a spiritual heartland? It seems that these questions are some of the ones pondered by writer/director Antonia Campbell-Hughes in this interesting yet uneven quasi-thriller, where love, death, grief, ancestry and sex all meet at a crossroads in County Donegal.
Englishman Hamish Considine works for his father at a multinational production house and is seemingly satisfied, but also appears to struggle with human connection. On a trip to visit his late mother’s family home in Donegal, Northern Ireland for the first time, Hamish is involved in a head-on car collision that kills one of the passengers in the oncoming vehicle, a 15 year old boy. As Hamish recovers from his injuries, he forms a unique bond with the other survivor of the crash, Evan, who introduces him to his slower way of life. But as it becomes clearer that neither are telling the entire truth about the incident, it begs the question: what do they want from each other?
There is a disconcerting human disconnect running through this film from the start, whether it be driven by class, nationality or simply personal differences; from the opening exchanges with a folksy rental car attendant to the gloomy cinematography and constant reminders from locals, Hamish is always established as a rank outsider. This is further reinforced by fellow schoolboy survivor Evan (depicted compellingly by Rhys Mannion), who carries with him a strangely menacing and somewhat ghostly aura as he slowly loses the plot, seeing Hamish as somewhere between co-conspirator, enemy and potential lover. Death brings them together, and pushes them towards an outcome that neither can quite verbalise, but will pursue like moths to a flame.
It feels a little off calling this a primarily queer story, but I think there are elements at least born out of the small town queer experience; moments betwen Hamish and Evan in ice cream stores, beaches and clubs are notably charged enough to be commented on by locals, and the tension between the two based on a shared lie feels loaded with closeted meaning. And yet, these elements all seem to come directly back to death, destruction, a fatal instinct. It’s an easy read to make, though it’s one the film wisely holds back on indulging in entirely. Instead, it maintains an obsession with the unspoken, having our characters fumble somewhat aimlessly as they desperately look for solid ground once more.
But undercutting all of this are a few issues. While the film creates quiet moments of tension and mystery, it often destroys them immediately with expository dialogue, or characters actively describing the subtext. It’s annoying, because the film is infinitely stronger at times when it leaves these moments floating in the air, felt by some but left without comment. A commitment to this more opaque style of storytelling would have seen a stronger overall product. There is also a little trouble with the lead performance from Cosmo Jarvis; he inhabits the space of a Tom Hardy-lite, but lacks a lot of the emotional depth that Hardy’s characters often have pulsating just under his crumbling tough guy surface. As a result, Hamish’s transformation from standoffish corporate statue to snivelling, guilt-riddled wreck is a hard one to track, though is ably guided by Mannion’s supporting turn.
It seems the word of the day for this film is “interesting” – while it doesn’t successfully drive home everything it sets out to do, and is a little muddled in places, it is definitely an atmospheric achievement, and poses some intriguing musings on death, grief and love. With time, it’s likely that a braver Campbell-Hughes will deliver a more refined piece grounded in the strongest elements of this film: icy photography, detached character interactions, and a deeply repressed yearning for release.
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