Dir-scr: Paul Andrew Williams. UK. 2010. 78mins
Funny Games meets Waiting For Godot in Cherry Tree Lane, an uneven third feature from writer/director Paul Andrew Williams that fails to re-kindle the excitement created by his debut London To Brighton.
Mercifully, Cherry Tree Lane’s more gruesome events all take place off camera.
The film marks a welcome return to exploring social injustice after the schlocky horror comedy The Cottage but fails to deliver on an overly familiar set up. Commercial prospects are mild at best for a film that falls into a commercial no man’s land between the genre thrills of Eden Lake and the arthouse intrigue of a Haneke title. Metrodome release the film in the UK in September.
There is certainly plenty of promise in the film’s early stages as middle-class couple Christine (Rachael Blake) and Mike (Tom Butcher) settle down for what appears to be a typical evening of simmering resentment and grumbling discontent. The doorbell rings and Asad (Ashley Chin), Rian (Jumayn Hunter) and Teddy (Sonny Muslim) burst into the home seeking the couple’s absent son Sebastian. There are scores to be settled and the couple are trussed up and terrified as the waiting begins.
Brooding close-ups and glowering looks create an initial sense of anticipation that Williams gradually allows to dissipate. The three youngsters are more complex characters than we might have expected, balancing animalistic menace with well-mannered consideration. They are also surprisingly - and sometimes unconvincingly - chatty spilling thoughts and feelings and challenging the assumptions of the captive couple.
Mercifully, Cherry Tree Lane’s more gruesome events all take place off camera but any attempt at evoking the class divide in ‘broken Britain’ is never fully realised. Despite a brief running-time, the film seems to run out of steam and ideas as it heads towards an unsurprising conclusion.
Production company: Steel Mill Pictures
International sales: The Salt Company, www.salt-co.com
Producer: Ken Marshall
Executive producer: Mark Foligno
Cinematography: Carlos Catalan
Editor: Tom Hemmings
Production designer: Alison Butler
Main cast: Rachael Blake, Tom Butcher, Jumayn Hunter, Ashley Chin, Sonny Muslim