Dir/scr. Jane Linfoot. UK, 2015, 94 minutes
After a decade in the trenches creating a quartet of admired short films, including the BAFTA-nominated Sea View, British writer-director Jane Linfoot finally makes it over the top with a debut feature that is stronger in terms of authorial control than compelling narrative. This conceptually modest piece should find a few more festival outings following its Edinburgh bow – but any theatrical audiences are apt to be slender given the absence of a strong hook or marketable elements
While the narrative is nicely contained, the characters agreeably nuanced and the premise suitably credible, our interest in this small tale is taken far too much for granted.
Largely a three-hander, The Incident records the impact of a troubled teenage girl on the lives of a privileged 30-something couple. While waiting in his car outside a takeaway pizza restaurant, handsome architect Joe (Tom Hughes) catches the eye of flirtatious local Lily (Tasha Connor). Pretty soon he is withdrawing £20 from the cashpoint machine to reward her for services rendered. Joe returns to his wife Annabel (Ruta Gedmintas) and their stunning modernist second home, congenially – if rather remotely – located amid a pretty woodland.
Next to encounter Lily is Annabel herself, who observes with vague concern that the vulnerable youth is engaged in prostitution. But the interest flows in both directions, and Lily finds herself outside the couple’s covetable glass-box property while Joe is away on business and his wife is in bed. Annabel is sufficiently distressed by the ensuing minor intrusion that she calls the police, and authorities intervene in a way that brings the two females face-to-face.
Billed as a psychological drama, The Incident does succeed in getting under the skin of its characters, and Lily, who is very far from yet finding a comfortable niche in the world, is a natural source of audience empathy. But the film’s focus is more on the less-relatable Annabel, whose fraught emotional response to the events seems wholly disproportionate, even with the alibi of her newly discovered pregnancy. While the narrative is nicely contained, the characters agreeably nuanced and the premise suitably credible, our interest in this small tale is taken far too much for granted.
Filming in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, Linfoot and director of photography Pau Castéjon ably use the rural setting to lend the intimate drama some cinematic scope. And production designer Byron Broadbent (who served as art director on fellow BFI-backed Edinburgh title Brand New-U) has nimbly overcome any budget limitations with the sleek interior of Joe and Annabel’s country retreat. The technical proficiency suggests a director who is adept at making choices – a skill set that could serve her well if ever pushed to progress beyond this calling-card debut.
Production companies: Universal Spirits, Square Circle Films
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Producers: Caroline Cooper Charles, Sarada McDermott
Cinematography: Pau Castéjon
Editor: Matthew McKinnon
Production design: Byron Broadbent
Music: Tim Hecker
Main cast: Ruta Gedmintas, Tom Hughes, Tasha Connor, Noma Dumezweni