Sunday 10 April 2016

Fare (US 2016: Dir Thomas Torrey)

Thomas Torrey - Fare’s director – is one of the more gifted short movie makers working in America at the moment: both Not Forgotten, his 2014 piece for the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, and Old Henry, his 2013 meditation on old age, are extremely moving short films (watch them on Vimeo).  So when I heard the premise for his first full length movie – a film shot entirely within the confines of a taxi cab – my initial thought was to suspect it of being rather too similar to the 2013 British film Locke, where Tom Hardy was the only actor in a film set entirely within a car. Well how wrong I was. Whereas Locke was perhaps more an exercise in cinematic possibilities – testing whether tension could be created with just one character and a (very) limited set - Fare is the real deal with a strong emotional core.

Eric is a part time cab driver, earning extra money while his real job – as an estate agent – is going through a dry patch. Eric’s wife Audrey is also in real estate, but doing much better working in the commercial sector: as a result their marriage seems to be on the rocks, and you get the sense that he’s not doing the cabbing because he needs the money, but more to stay away from Audrey.

One of Eric’s more interesting fares (and the only one to sit up front with him) is a clever, older Irish man (credited enigmatically as ‘The Foreigner’) who questions Eric constantly and quotes marital philosophy at him courtesy of a writer called Wormwood.  Through his interrogations we get a clear understanding of Eric’s problems - including suspecting his wife of infidelity. As they get to the end of the ride The Foreigner tells him ominously “your night’s just beginning then.” And indeed it is, for the next fare he picks up, smooth talking Patrick, could just be the very slimeball with whom his wife is having an affair. With The Foreigner’s wise words about having to fight for your marriage echoing in his head, Eric drives into the dark with his captive fare, intent on getting his life back on track.

As usual I won’t give away any more of the plot, except to mention that there’s a major plot shift about two thirds of the way through that initially appears incongruous but makes sense by the time the final credits roll.  A lot of Fare’s success is down to its ambiguity – are the events in it chance or causality, and to what extent is The Foreigner responsible for what happens? Is he actually Wormwood? And if so is it coincidence that the word Wormwood has a Biblical context? And that ‘foreigner’ is interchangeable with ‘devil’ when translated into Chinese?

These are intriguing ideas, but they don’t get in the way of the film’s growing tension, generated via a great script (by Torrey), some sharp acting from the director himself as down on his luck Eric, Katherine Drew as Audrey and J.R. Adduci as Patrick. A running time of 75 minutes that doesn’t squander a second also keeps things on track, and the movie’s gradual progression from day to night gives the movie a very noirish feel. Fare really is a stunning debut feature from the very talented Thomas Torrey, and it will be very interesting to see what he does next. Strongly recommended.

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