Friday, 12 June 2015

THE QUIET HOUR - Review By Greg Klymkiw - NIFF 2015 - Low-Key Post-Apocalypse

The Quiet Hour (2014)
Dir. Stéphanie Joalland
Starring: Dakota Blue Richards, Karl Davies, Brigitte Millar, Jack McMullen

Review By Greg Klymkiw

After the Apocalypse, it's going to be very quiet.

At least that's the way it's got to be in Stéphanie Joalland's first feature film The Quiet Hour. The end of the world as we know it in the universe of the film is an alien invasion in which the unseen extraterrestrial critters (save for their hovering spaceship and mini-patrol-jets) are wiping out as many humans as possible and stripping the Earth of its natural resources.

Humanity has about two one-hour periods a day (hence the title) to wander about outdoors without getting zapped. The rest of the time, mankind needs to hunker down, ever-so quietly, lest they give their position away to the merciless space invaders.

Perhaps the most merciless creature on God's soon-to-NOT-be-green Earth is man. Food is scarce, so many marauders have turned to cannibalism. (This flesh munching is all handled a bit too discretely for my bloodthirsty tastes).

Safe havens are also in short supply, so if you've got one, it's eventually going to be under siege.

Placing a whopping emphasis upon character over action and suspense is probably not a bad thing to do, but every so often, it reminds the viewer that we're dealing with what is probably a very minuscule budget - hence: no onscreen aliens, only a handful of visible humans and most of the action confined to an isolated old farm house.

No matter. It's what happens inside the farmhouse that's important and writer-director Joalland acquits herself very well in this respect. Sarah (Dakota Blue Richards) is a hot babe (Thank Christ!), holed up in the stately country house with Tom (Jack McMullen), her blind younger brother. When Jude (Karl Davies), an army-fatigue-adorned young hunk shows up with a bullet wound in his leg, he's allowed, grudgingly, to stay and get patched up. The wounded lad claims to be a young father whose wife and child have been killed by marauders.

The plot thickens when a group of armed inbreds show up and demand Jude be turned over to them.

Hmmm. Why? Is he really who or what he says he is? Is he a killer? A scavenger lying in wait to decimate our plucky bro and sis? The reality, however, is that even if they acquiesce to the demands to give him up, the sibs risk losing an ally against a passel of dangerous scumbags.

Suspense and violence follow.

Very quietly, mind you.

The accent is on the relationships between these people in a world on the brink of disaster and much of the film involves three-hander interplay between them. Joalland's script is nicely written with an accent on character development and realistic dialogue. The performances are solid and as a director, her mise-en-scene deftly juggles the demands of making this claustrophobic setting work dramatically and cinematically.

I appreciated the muted quality of the film, but after awhile, I did expect a good, old fashioned Straw Dogs-like orgy of violence. There is violence, but it continues to play out in the muted realism of the rest of the movie. This, of course, is the noble way to play things out, but I do fear that many (including myself) will be a tad letdown by the lack of a truly, madly, deeply inspired donnybrook with geysers of blood-letting.

We deserve it. We've paid attention, justifiably so, to the good writing and fine acting and stately pace. Lacking a climactic dust-up seems a bit of a cop-out, taking things far too preciously for comfort. Still, it's an intelligent, considered work and one can't complain too much about that.


The Quiet Hour enjoys its Canadian Premiere at the Niagara Integrated Film Festival (NIFF 2015). For tix, times and venues, visit the festival's website by clicking HERE.