Sunday 11 April 2021

Sensation (UK 2021: Dir Martin Grof) NEW WAVE OF THE BRITISH FANTASTIC FILM 2021

Remember Spooks? That BBC TV series which was so low budgeted that it necessitated actors sitting around in glamorous looking locations (mainly offices and boardrooms) talking emphatically about things the programme makers couldn't actually afford to show? Well stylistically and narratively Grof's second feature pulls off the same trick, while mining a whole host of cinematic influences too.

Lowly postman (and violin virtuoso, but we'll get to that later) Andrew Cooper (Eugene Simon) knows little about his past, and decides to share his DNA to check whether he has other relatives and/or siblings. The test results work their way into the hands of a secretive organisation headed up by the colourful and more than slightly eccentric Dr Marinus (Alastair G. Cumming) who, telling the young lad that there is something special about him, introduces Andrew to a country house research facility where he can learn more about himself. At the facility he meets other young people who are similarly gifted in different ways. Andrew's room comes complete with a violin and he confesses that he has learned to play to a high standard by copying videos; he also faces off henchman Ernesto (Alex Reid, surely a Dave Prowse for nos jours) who he manages to beat off: I mean up. So Andrew's clearly a young chap of some gifts.

The group are in the care of the rather robotic Nadia (Emily Wyatt) and May (Jennifer Martin), the former who was adopted by the Russians following the death of her parents. Marinus's grandfather was in league with the Nazis and the Doctor has continued his relative's research into the enhancement of sensory receptors among conjoined twins, which heighten sensitivity in each of the subjects being studied within the facility. But the more Andrew finds out the less he (and the audience) understand; no-one there can be trusted, and he starts to doubt everything he sees and hears.

There are so many plotlines that fizzle out in Sensation that even after multiple viewings (I didn't but I'm making a point here) you'd be hard pressed to make head from tail about what's going on here. I suspect that some hard decisions had to be made editing the thing in post; the movie includes a final reel, surprisingly gloomy plot flip that piles on the WTFery, which may just have been a compromise to wrap the whole thing up but just makes everything we've seen before look a bit daft.

On the plus side the film makes great use of its London locations including the newly modernised financial district (although if the plushness of Andrew's north London gaff is to believed, the Post Office must have improved its salary package in recent years), recalling Geoffrey Sax's 2006 teen-friendly London romp Stormbreaker, if a lot less exciting.

Somewhere in the midst of this rather silly and portentous movie there's a three part TV series for the YA crowd struggling to get out; at least the plot would get a chance to breathe in that format. But Sensation is just a handsome looking mess, with variable acting by people who could probably have done better given more rounded characters. Disappointing.

Sensation will be available on Digital Download from 16th April

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