LFF 2019: Nocturnal – Review

Release date – N/A, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 26 minutes, Director – Nathalie Biancheri

A man in his 30’s (Cosmo Jarvis) begins to form a close bond and relationship with a schoolgirl (Lauren Coe)

The basis of Nathalie Biancheri’s narrative feature directorial debut is a rather simple one. A man in his early 30’s (Cosmo Jarvis), after tensions with his partner begin to rise, and she storms out of his flat in the middle of the night, begins to form a relationship with a schoolgirl (Lauren Coe). Pete’s life is one of repetition and little excitement, he spends his time as a self-employed painter and decorator, before returning to his drab and barely decorated flat. However, his life seems to change when he meets schoolgirl Laurie. His interests appear to immediately shift, almost forgetting his girlfriend entirely in favour of this young figure who grabs his attention from first sight.

It would be easy to tag this film as creepy and just plain unacceptable, however, somehow for much of the short run-time the film avoids stepping into areas of discomfort. Instead there’s something rather interesting about the piece and the way that it handles its themes. The screenplay, and indeed the performances, is subtle and considered. The film itself feels somewhat relaxed, helping to bring the viewer into the film, and wanting to see what happens to the characters. Characters who as they develop begin to introduce elements of tension into the film with their crossed and conflicting intentions and feelings. In fact the only major moment of discomfort is when Laurie, playfully flirting with her new, older, friend says “33, like Jesus. Better than Jesus”. It’s this praise and flirtation that brings in a sense of unease and worry as to where the film might go. However, as the film proceeds it goes back to it’s initial relatively calm, not too challenging, tone that just about gets away with its themes. Being more interesting instead of inappropriate.

Jarvis’ central role not only solidifies his status as one of the next big names in British acting but shows a layered and thoughtful performance. One that invests the viewer who almost feels the need to try and unpick the slightly mysterious figure that they see on-screen. Mixing in hints of anger, confusion and almost a sense of loss – something which Coe gets across in her performance, but to connect more with her own generation and with rather different thoughts for her character – which further highlights the laid-back nature to the quieter scenes involving the central pairing.

Much of the film is quiet, very conversational and thoughtfully paced. It might sometimes not go quite further than the general basis and themes that the plot entails, however there are one or two surprising areas to which the film goes. And with it all done in the short, fairly quick 86 minute run-time the film is concise, does what it does and does it fairly well. With good performances and a lack of creepiness that is alone to be commended it’s a decent and quite interesting piece, especially for a directorial debut from a director who looks set to bring about some very interesting naturalistic British cinema in the years to come.

While at times it might seem somewhat basic Nocturnal is an overall good watch. With an interesting tackling of themes and ideas, and good performances it’s worth it just for the way that it avoids creepiness and the acting and directing careers that it will surely launch further alone.

⭐⭐⭐

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