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Deep End (1970)
Dark and brilliant coming-of-age film
Acclaimed on its first release but mysteriously vanishing not long after, Jerry Skolimowski's dark coming-of-age comedy Deep End has only recently resurfaced. And as it turns out, we didn't know what we were missing.
Beginning rather innocently, the film follows fifteen-year old boy Mike (John Moulder-Brown) after securing a job as a baths attendant at the local swimming pool. There he meets Susan (Jane Asher), an older but attractive young woman who receives extra tips by working in the men's section. Mike develops a crush on her, but gradually becomes obsessive as he finds out she has fiancée, culminating in a disturbing finale at the pool.
Writer on Roman Polanski's tense and claustrophobic Knife in the Water, Skolimowski once again relies on fantastic performances to prevent this dark romance from stumbling. Jane Asher is perfect as the warm but unpredictable Susan in perhaps the highlight of her career, whilst then-relative-newcomer John Moulder-Brown eases the audience in with his charm and genuine only to spit them out as he becomes increasingly obsessive and unstable.
Deep End's greatest achievement however, is its tactless ability to flow between humour, romance and darkness. The black comedy Skolimowski employs is uncomfortably funny yet cold and callous. The ending is so gradual that it seems inevitably tragic yet strangely victorious. This is a film of two sides: it can be sympathetic and observant yet scornful and melancholy.
One of the standout British films of the seventies.
The Souvenir (2019)
"I'm trying to work out how you two tesselate..." ponders Richard Ayoade's Patrick in a scene-stealing cameo. These musings epitomise British auteur Johanna Hogg's latest film, The Souvenir, a beguiling venture into an ill-fated romance, which will likely prove to be one of the year's best films.
Honor Swinton-Byrne (daughter of Tilda Swinton, who also stars) is Julie, a privileged but ambitious film student struggling to find her artistic voice as she navigates the world of film in Knightsbridge, London. Here, she begins a poisonous relationship with the suave but arrogant Anthony (Tom Burke), who uproots her life with cruel mind games and lies.
Although Swinton-Byrne is faultless as the vulnerable and naïve Julie, Burke owns the show in what is undoubtedly the finest performance of his career. As with director Johanna Hogg, his genius lies in the difficulty of pinpointing Anthony's motives, and distinguishing his kindness from his callousness. Even after seeing the film it feels as though the surface of his character has barely been scratched.
Such performances have become staples of Hogg's films, none more so than Tom Hiddleston's breakthrough turns in Unrelated and Archipelago. The former, Hogg's debut feature, is founded on a startling sense of realism that would go on to pervade all of her films, reminiscent of Luchino Visconti's masterpiece The Leopard in its portrayal of upper class life. Yet in The Souvenir, this is paralleled with a sense of enchantment that grows as Julie's attachment to Anthony deepens.
One of the best British films of recent years, The Souvenir is an enrapturing love story that demands multiple viewings. I eagerly await The Souvenir Part II which will be released in 2020. This film is a real stunner.