Dirty God (2019) **

June 3rd, 2019
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Sacha Polak | Wri: Susie Farrell | Cast: Vicky Knights, Eliza Brady-Girard, Rebecca Stone, Dana Marineci | Drama, 114′

Random acid attacks reflect the expression of generalised angst and have been recorded since the late 19th century throughout European cities. DIRTY GOD, the first English language feature by Dutch director/co-writer Sacha Polak (Hemer), is daring and questionable in equal parts.

Told uncompromisingly in a style that somehow blurs the boundaries between openness and voyeurism, it incorporates the looks-obsessed instagram polemic that sees a London based woman disfigured by chemicals. Fiesty first timer Vicky Knight plays Jade, the woman in question. Her looks prior to the attack are the main currency for her existence as a young young mother with limited education and opportunities. So predictably Jade (Knight) seeks solace in the precarious world of online liaisons where she soon finds the passion and connection she’s craved for so long. But there is a downside to these internet meetings and her personal life soon starts its downhill progression, as family life and friendships start to be affected by her change of circumstances.

We first see parts of Jade on the day she is released from the hospital in London. Her face and upper body scarred, the camera does not leave any doubts as to the extent of her injuries, and she returns to the East London council estate where her mother Lisa (Kelly) awaits her with her little daughter Rea (Brady- Girard), the latter screaming in fear when her mother tries to cuddle her. Jade’s best friend Shami (Stone) is now with Jade’s ex, Naz (Robinson), yet the relationship between the Jade and Naz stays unresolved. Jade takes to chat rooms, leaving her face in the dark. To get money for a ‘miracle’ operation in Morocco, she works as a telemarketer, having to put up with some nasty comments about her appearance. As we all knew, the Morocco ad was a con, and we follow every step of Jade’s trip to Africa – used by Polak to get to a constructed ending.

DoP Ruben Impens is unsparing, relentlessly sharing every detail.  And alhough some of the dream sequences are clumsy, we have to admire newcomer Vicky Knight who suffered scars from burning when she was a child, and acts with great passion. But overall this an uncomfortable film to watch: when does honesty becomes an embarrassment? After all, Knight is a real victim, but a feature film is still a work of fiction. It is not easy to decide where to come down in this argument. At best, the ambiguity is open to interpretation, with the audience making up their minds. AS


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