Friday 18 January 2019

Point of Death (UK 2017: Dir Steve Stone)

Here's a 2015 movie, formerly known as 'In Extremis', now repackaged with a new title and the tag 'It's the end of their world' carried over from the original poster.

So don't expect many laughs here. It's a very sober story, centred on troubled dad Alex, who lives in a palatial but remote house with his wife Claudia and daughter Anna. It's a very taught setup - Alex is a bit of a coiled spring, not averse to beating up a tramp in the office car park or trashing the desk in his study.

Anna warns him that a storm is coming, and before you know it a tempest does arrive in the shape of huge darkly swirling clouds (an impressive effect in a low budget movie) and deafening room shaking thunderclaps.

But is it a storm or a portent of trouble to come? Something is seriously wrong in this family's world. First, the rowan tree in the garden dies, and Anna reminds her father that it was there to protect them. But from what? This is swiftly followed by the demise of all the foliage on their land. Anna mysteriously collapses at the base of the tree and Alex takes her to hospital - or what he thinks is a hospital, but it turns out that he's treated as a patient.

Point of Death is a film constructed on dream logic. Characters appear and disappear, time seems to re-set itself, and the viewing audience, particularly if they've seen Jacob's Ladder, knows that no good can come of this.

The problem with the film is that because it's heading for a fairly obviously guessable end reel, everything that comes before it is deliberately abstract and fractured. The presence of a dark man, hovering on the edge of the frame as a constant threat, isn't particularly threatening, and the pace of the movie, maintaining a dreamlike detachment, serves the purposes of the denouement but is pretty punishing to sit through. It's a slightly Pinteresque piece but script wise sadly lacks much depth; and while the cast - David O'Hara as Alex (who reminded me of Sam Neill in 1981's Possession), Lisa Gormley as Claudia and Isabelle Allen as Anna - give good performances, they're let down by the fact that nothing else is really happening save for their fraught interactions (oh Toyah Willcox - who also gets to sing the song over the end credits - and Neil Person both turn up in bit parts that may have been for box office draw purposes judging by their prominence in the credits).

There's no denying that Point of Death looks impressive and the passive, stately photography provides the stillness that the drama needs to unfold. It's just a shame that there's little content to get hold of, making this a rather arid viewing experience.

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