Away Blu-ray Review

Away

Midway through David Blair’s new film, Away, one of the characters refers to Blackpool as the Vegas of the North.

Given that the film centres around a self-destructive man being cared for by a young woman with problems of her own, you can imagine it being subtitled Leaving Las Vegas (of the North).

But comparisons with Mike Figgis’ great film end there.

Ria (Juno Temple) is a young woman struggling to make ends meet and dreaming of a better life. She finds her way to Blackpool and crosses paths with Joseph (Timothy Spall), a fifty-something man who is intent on ending his life in various different ways and seems haunted by the recent past.

Ria’s plans for the future include her friend Kaz (Hayley Squires), due to follow Ria up to Blackpool, but will mean making a break with the past and escaping the abusive Dex (Matt Ryan).

As the story unfolds, Ria finds herself more and more drawn to Joseph and acts as his protector of sorts. Or is it the other way around?

Much like the characters’ state of mind throughout the movie, I found myself wondering one thing through the closing credits: where did it all go wrong?

Blackpool evokes many things through Felix Wiedemann’s cinematography, alternating between windswept fantasy-land and gritty exile.

The actors are all top drawer and put in the best performances they can. Squires, impressive in her supporting role, is definitely one to watch, and Temple is someone who I am still surprised has not cracked the States.

Spall conveys so much pain, regret, anger and sadness with his facial expressions alone that he does not need to utter a word.

Which, given the script, might not have been the worst idea in the world.

You can occasionally glimpse what the filmmakers were aiming for, with the urban fairy tale motif running throughout and the scattered timeframe, the latter apparently being a ‘thing’ in movies these days.

But whatever the artistic intentions, the resultant melodrama falls short.

Admittedly, the story is set up well, with several intriguing questions posed in the first fifteen minutes.

As the film wears on however, you stop caring about the answers. And any conviction in the performances is either diluted by improbable behaviour or crushed by the unnecessary level of twists.

The twists, when they come, are a facet of the structure.

Now I’m all for a scattered timeframe; this can sometimes be beneficial in adding dimension to the characters.

In this film, however, it suggests a lack of confidence in linear storytelling. It also serves to distract from the central performances, with unnecessary time spent, for example, on wondering why Ria is so focussed on the cantankerous Joseph in the first place.

The script feels a bit laboured overall, with awkwardly-inserted analogies involving luminescent fish and improbable knowledge around the dimensions of Blackpool Tower.

The best intentions were clearly there, but this is one trip to the seaside that might sadly be best avoided.

Conor Brennan

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