Samantha Morton and Daniel Mays star in Tom Beard’s beautifully shot drama about a fateful trip to the seaside
Tom Beard is a British photographer and filmmaker, here presenting his debut feature: a confident, good-looking, heartfelt film in the pastoral social-realist style, with strong performances from an excellent cast, including Samantha Morton and Daniel Mays. There are some lovely images and ambient moods conjured by cinematographer Tim Sidell, and, with editor Izabella Curry, Beard creates a plausible rhythm to his story, moving from a tough urban estate to an almost idyllic looking seafront and back.
My reservation is that the third-act sacrificial calamity is a bit obvious and the film has something over-familiar in this genre – not miserabilism, but catastrophism, a sense that everything that happens in the story, happy and sad, must finally be paid for with some awful tragedy.
With her usual presence and force, Morton plays Aisha, a woman suffering from depression following the death of her partner and now looking after two children who are themselves dealing with unexpressed, unventilated emotions: smart, thoughtful teen Vi (Emilia Jones) and her stroppy kid brother Troy (Badger Skelton). Vi begs her torpid and overmedicated mum to take them away for a weekend break to their late dad’s caravan on the coast, and there they meet kindly site manager Lias (Mays), his troubled sister Lillah (Billie Piper) and her equally tricky daughter Miranda (Bella Ramsey), who covers up her own loneliness with shows of anger and begins a complex, destructive friendship with Troy.
Everyone has problems stemming from a sense of abandonment, or guilt at being the abandoner. The title refers to the old rhyme about magpies: “One for sorrow, two for joy …” Enigmatically, Beard shows us the image of a magpie in a cage. But significantly, only one. A serious, promising piece of work with visual flair.