ONEActor Antonia Campbell-Hughes’ writing and directorial debut presents an ambitious portrait of male emotional repression and the disturbing ways in which these emotions can suddenly spill out. Within the film’s first five minutes, London businessman Hamish Considine (Cosmo Jarvis) is involved in a car accident that lands him in hospital and leaves a teenage boy dead.
The accident happens while Hamish is on his way to the coastal town of Donegal, Ireland, intending to sell an estate left to him by his late aunt. While this narrative setup tends to be the inciting incident in many a horror film, the ghosts that actually haunt the inherited seaside cottage are of the highly symbolic type and are best talked through with a therapist.
Despite his injuries, stubborn Hamish decides to check himself out of the hospital and continue with his original plan. Jarvis offers his most convincing acting as Hamish tries to get his dislocated shoulder back in place and uses artisanal super glue to sew up a gash on his forearm. When he finds a revealing Polaroid in the house, he begins to search for answers about his past and finds clues in local townspeople.
In the days that follow, Hamish befriends Evan (Rhys Mannion), the surviving passenger from the crash. Anger and guilt begin to surface as their complicated relationship takes shape. Mannion delivers a disturbing performance – a captivating portrayal of what it looks like to mourn the inexplicable within the confines of masculinity. Despite the actors’ best efforts, the largely underwritten characters sidetrack Campbell-Hughes’ portrayal of grief. At best, it is a stylistic choice for the viewer to perceive the characters as divided as they themselves felt; at worst, it’s lazy writing.
The most enjoyable aspect of the film is Piers McGrail’s brooding cinematography: stills of misty rolling hills; a rocky coastline; and empty country roads carry the cool tone of the film. Taking advantage of Ireland’s stunning scenery, McGrail brings several postcard-worthy images to the screen. There is a burning image of a wrecked car burning at the bottom of a hill. Unfortunately, the fantastic cinematography is overshadowed by incongruous scenes, including a dance sequence in an empty club with harsh red lighting.
Evan in one last attempt at connection, Hamish jokingly claims, “it’s in all of us and you found it,” verifying the film’s title. The film fails to answer what exactly it is, and instead leaves viewers grasping for vague feelings. The film ends abruptly, refusing to offer any simple closure. The initial sense of frustration is softened by the fact that this is actually the first time we feel like we’re really in Hamish’s shoes.
Debut film from an always interesting actor.
Initiates a feeling of noticeable unease, but it is not enough to carry a film.
Its lack of closure is interesting, but only after the fact.