Dir: May Miles Thomas. UK. 2000. 115mins.
Prod co: Elemental Films. Int'l sales: Elemental Films (+44 141 332 0375). Prod: Karen M.Smyth. Exec prod: Owen Thomas. Scr/DoP/Ed: May Miles Thomas. Prod des: Ewen Duncan. Mus: Bobby Henry. Main cast: Maureen Carr, John Kielty, Gary Lewis, Alyson Orr, Archie Lal.
Having secured attention as a pioneering, low-budget digital feature, One Life Stand proves to be equally noteworthy for the sombre precision of its black and white camerawork and its mature handling of complex emotional issues. As significant a declaration of talent as Lynne Ramsay's Ratcatcher, it establishes May Miles Thomas as a filmmaker of world class distinction. The human element at the centre of the story is sharply enough drawn to have a universal appeal and the film has the potential to connect with European arthouse audiences and beyond.
Making a virtue of her modest financial resources, Thomas uses her camera with restraint and edits with great fluidity to create a sense of pace and narrative momentum without moving the camera itself. She captures little moments of time and brings them to life with richly textured performances. Maureen Carr is outstanding as indomitable single mother Trise, a woman who faces triumph and disaster with a certain stoicism and places her hopes for the future in teenage son John Paul (Kielty).
Seeking to finance his impossible dream of a modelling career, Trise works for a tarot reading phone line and begins to rely on the kindness of her lecherous boss. John Paul meanwhile is accepted by a glamour agency. Unknown to his mother, he starts to earn a handsome living as a male escort. Before long, he has embarked on a relationship with an older woman who provides the financial and physical pleasures that his mother cannot.
A poignant tale, told with gentle humour and considerable understatement, One Life Stand is marginally too long in its present state but otherwise filled with compassion and insight. Currently developing two projects, Thomas' future films will be eagerly awaited.