Directed by: Liam Gavin
Cast: Steve Oram, Catherine Walker
I’ve come to find that I always have extremely high expectations when I look into a foreign film. Those outside of America seem to place emphasis on strong storytelling over blockbuster visual effects, and that’s something I’ll always appreciate. Liam Gavin’s new flick, A Dark Song, is certainly no exception to the rule, as it functions as a character examination just as much as it does a genre film. There’s a minimalist approach to the whole affair and it feels perfectly suited for the story.
And about that story…
After losing her son in a heartbreaking kidnap case, Sophia Howard leaves the city to set up temporary shop in an isolated area of Wales. But she’s not there to work out her grief in typical fashion, rather, she hires Joseph Solomon, a grumpy, alcoholic occultist who’s said to be able to open what amount to portals to another realm. Sophia’s desire is to see and hear her boy just one more time… but there’s more to her motives than meet the eye, and her hidden agenda will only put her and Solomon in mortal danger.
What I wouldn’t give to see a swifter pace from Gavin’s creeper of a supernatural flick. It’s so well-acted, written, shot and edited that it’s hard to take your eyes from the screen, but it does also move at an extremely slow pace, which will likely turn a few of those out there with paper thin attention spans off. I can understand why Gavin took his time in building tension, but there are a few sequences that feel as though they could have been truncated, if not eliminated altogether. The plus side of that is, even in the slower moments that don’t feel paramount to the picture as a whole, we see some amazing scenery, strong set pieces and some fine acting. Sure, a few minutes could’ve been trimmed to keep the story moving a bit smoother, but we’re not forced to sit through worthless footage.
The casting of the flick is pitch-perfect, and in truth, it had to be. Two personalities carry the film, so we’ve got to be prepared to heavily invest in the attached performers. Luckily, Catherine Walker and Steve Oram are elite thespians who dump their all into storytelling. Walker is haunting and sympathetic. She’s working at bringing to life an intense character that could’ve been botched had a less-refined actress been cast in the role. And Steve Oram is always – and I mean always – on point. Oram’s found a nice home in the genre, playing crucial characters in works like The Canal and Sightseers, and he can take a wealth of pride in his performance as Joseph Solomon: he’s absolutely stellar, and his character is complex and multi-layered.
There are a handful of spoilers I’m aching to share, but I’ll refrain. The surprises the movie presents are worthy of waiting for. The work from the performers, as already noted, is top notch, and the concept in general, while rather cliché on the surface, pulls enough tricky maneuvers to separate it from other similarly-themed pictures. So, while A Dark Song does indeed crawl along through the first two acts (the third sees the action and intensity amplified quite considerably), and while there are a few plot points I found just a tad sketchy, or inconsistent, the movie is ultimately gratifying and disturbing in equal measure. The melancholy tone works to lull us into an almost bereft state, but the peaks of the script are great and in the end, we get the kind of payoff we deserve.
You want to tune into an intense film that unravels under a near-palpable cloud of gloom? Check out A Dark Song. You won’t be disappointed.