Dir. Charlotte Colbert | UK, Thriller | 95 minutes.
Charlotte Colbert’s feature debut imagines the horror of surgical mutilation in ways that are strikingly beautiful as well as painfully visceral. Post double mastectomy, a well-known actress seeks healing solitude in the wilderness of the Scottish Highlands only to discover that a fashionable artist (Rupert Everett) and famous film director Eric Hathbourne (Malcolm McDowell) – an echo from the past – are also in residential retreat at the remote forest mansion.
Body horror thrillers are increasingly the domain of women filmmakers: Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or winning Titane is an example, but Rose Glass’s Saint Maud more readily springs to mind with its distinctly British brand of dourness: both films are set in grim locations and deal with creative cancer-stricken heroines.
Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige) is an understandably prickly patient whose artistic ego is struggling with her grisly affliction making it difficult for her to accept the sympathetic ministerings of her likeable nurse Desi (Kota Eberhardt). Travelling up in the Tartan-padded splendour of the night train (The Highland Express?) she clearly wants to be cosseted but prefers the seclusion of a quaint but isolated bothie and makes a rapid retreat there with Lois in tow, in the hope of some much-needed healing. Eschewing her medication (“tramadol is the breakfast of Stars”) through sheer exhaustion she is falls asleep and is transported into a fantasy dreamworld imagining a raging fire in the depths of the night. But the heart of her trauma seems to rest with an incident in her past involving a powerful media mogul (Malcolm MacDowell). Her solitude unearths powerful memories and sets in motion the hope of retribution in the bosky backwater.
A witty sardonic script co-written by Kitty Percy makes this darkly drole as well as mysterious and endlessly beguiling with its imaginative camerawork, Gothic undertones and recurring motifs of bloody sutures and tingling nerves are interwoven as dream sequences in a thriller also steeped in Highland folklore – not to mention the dreaded Scottish play by Shakespeare.
Rather like Jennifer Ehle’s diva in Saint Maud, Veronica is stylish and forthright; red-lipped, be-turbaned in velvet, and bedecked with a fine line in vintage furs. The peace and seclusion of the bothie gradually work wonders on her emotional state as she garners strength in weird and wonderful ways, and her rapport with Desi morphs into something fluid and fascinating in this imaginative first feature. MT
ON RELEASE IN UK CINEMAS FROM 22 JULY 2022 | LOCARNO FILM FESTIVAL 2021
Swatch First Feature Award
SHE WILL by Charlotte Colbert, United Kingdom