Help review – dizzying psychodrama that gets domestic violence all wrong | Movies

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This dull, stilted, suspense drama is not to be confused with either the excellent TV series of the same name starring Stephen Graham and Jodie Comer, or the Beatles’ larky 1965 collaboration with director Richard Lester (same title, but with extra punctuation). Perhaps this Help’s writer-director, Blake Ridder, and his producers were hoping that folks surfing streaming platforms might click on their production thinking it was either of these two far superior entertainments. Accidental viewers are not likely to stick with this unless they really want to know what happens to three or so thinly drawn characters locked in a psychodrama of suspicion, betrayal and unconvincingly faked lust.

Having just split up with her long-distance lover, Grace (Emily Redpath) comes to visit her old friend Liv (Sarah Alexandra Marks) and partner Edward (Louis James) in the countryside. A neighbour, David (played by Ridder himself), who appears to either be autistic or have another neurodivergent condition, warns Grace enigmatically as she arrives that “it’s bad”. This, presumably, applies to Liv and Edward’s tempestuous relationship but could just as easily be a judgment on the film itself. Gradually, Grace realises that there is violence happening behind closed doors, but the big twist reveals that things are not as they seem. While we wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise, we can’t let it pass that the reveal is predicated on a very dodgy understanding of a particular type of domestic violence.

This is Ridder’s first full-length feature after having made dozens of shorts (according to IMDB), on many of which he is credited as cinematographer, editor, producer and actor as well as writer-director. You would think after all that practice, this step-up to feature making would be a bit better. The biggest problem, apart from the turgid pace and confused screenwriting, is directing actors: the cast perform with the wooden, inert energy of hostages making a proof-of-life video. Worst of all, a cute jack russell terrier named Polly gets accidentally offed. Some cinematic crimes are unforgivable.

Help is released on 14 February on digital platforms.



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