Gatecrash is a film that you cannot predict, and from the tense and harrowing opening, the audience will not be able to peel their eyes away from the screen. A true gem of a picture.
A dark psychological thriller that follows a couple in a state of turmoil. Nicole (Olivia Bonamy) and Steve (Ben Cura) find themselves having to deal with carrying out a hit and run incident. As the couple fight over who is truly to blame, a policeman (Samuel West) comes to their door to ask some questions.
Gatecrash takes a lot of its original play setting with its setups, be it the framing of our characters as they discuss, fight and panic about what has happened, be it in the right after the events or many months later. The structure when we are inside the house echoes the loneliness Nicole has in her life. As grand and gorgeous as their home is, there is no love there. Laurence Gough and Director of Photography Mark Nutkins use a limited shot selection of mostly mid shots when characters are in the same room together. An example of Gatecrash showing its confidence and intent is when Nicole is alone in the bedroom; initially, the camera is pulled out. We see how sterile her life is and how confined she is to her environments. Utterly brilliant work all around through the film.
The home is perfectly decorated yet is always cold, especially so in the first act. Boadicea Shouls, Tamsin Gandhi and Trisha Birch have done tremendous work here in the set and production design to encapsulate a relationship between the two. Everything is perfect for showing us this couple’s relationship before we even learn the full extent of the abuse that Nicole suffers. This beautifully decorated home, even after the time jump, still feels cold. A baby usually brings colour and joy, but throughout this house, the white and greys surround Nicole and cause a separation from the outside closing shots as we are suddenly presented with colour. This shift is stark and shows the idea of freedom that is not present inside that house.
Gatecrash starts at a mile a minute before finding its right pace. Doing so fills the room with tension as Nicole tries to figure out what is going on and as Steve tries to figure out how he can get the blame firmly off his shoulders and happily take it out on Nicole if he can. Then the film falls into a lull as we see these characters sit around and talk. This cadence in the storytelling works well as you become enthralled with the possibility, not the dialogue. It occasionally goes on longer and needlessly, but with the narrative being told.
This narrative splinters off from what we expected as soon as Samuel Wests mysterious policeman arrives. The picture immediately feels his presence due to how off-kilter he is. His use of words on Nicole works like a charm, and when it becomes clearer of his intent or supposed intent in the eyes of the audience, another switch is made. These timely switches in the story help keep the audience on their toes. Do not expect to have the film laid out neatly in front of you as there are many surprises in store that are best left unsaid here. Just let it be known that the final half of the film expertly ramps up the tension to a chilling finale thanks to Anton Lesser’s Sid’s introduction.
Nicole is a long-suffering victim of abuse. Be it the physical abuse she suffers from Steve or the emotional and mental torture from our policeman. She is continuously in a state of defence of herself. It is an eerie performance from Bonamy to portray a victim in such a way. Yet despite it all, strength is resonated here. She may keep taking said abuse from these men, but she keeps going; she keeps fighting, be it for her or her family—a stunning performance by someone who is pressured with structured abuse.
There is a good chance that you will struggle to find a bigger coward that Ben Cura’s Steve in 2021. He is abusive physically and emotionally to poor Nicole; at every turn, he hides behind here when trouble arises. To the point that he does so in the opening act multiple times. Small, subtle decisions such as talking to a man in the second half of the film have him tucked neatly behind Nicole or other objects. He is never opening himself up to anyone, a trait that seems synonymous with his character.
Interestingly, when he views someone smaller or weaker than him and his anger is raised to a boiling point, he strikes down hard. First, with language and cursing and then with violence. He is a person with little control and with few positive qualities, and Cura takes this hateful man in his stride to allow the audience to have a great deal of disdain for him. Yet, when he is backed into a corner, he tries to weasel himself out of it, either trying to pin the blame on Nicole or excuse the things he has done.
Laurence Gough’s second feature (since 2009’s Salvage) is extraordinary given its low-key nature. Gatecrash is a film that takes you on a harrowing ride and, despite there being limited action throughout enthrals with a wonderful story. A must watch for 2021.
GATECRASH is available on digital download now – order your copy here.
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