Friday, 7 July 2017

BEFORE ANYTHING YOU SAY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Searing Domestic Two-Hander Soars

Kristen Harris and Darcy Fehr: Verbal Domestic Slug-Fest

Before Anything You Say (2016)
Dir. Shelagh Carter
Scr. Deborah Schnitzer
Starring: Kristen Harris, Darcy Fehr, John Bluethner, Toni Reimer, Graham Ashmore

Review By Greg Klymkiw

There's much to be said for the dazzling cinematic potential of watching two great actors verbally slugging it out against the backdrop of claustrophobic domestic strife and Shelagh Carter's Before Anything You Say does not disappoint in the long-honoured snipe-fest sweepstakes. Carter's previous outing Passionflower, a harrowing portrait of mental illness, solidified her position as one of Canada's leading practitioners of searingly glorious psychological melodrama and this new film manages to up the ante by delving into territory that blends the delectable properties of 70s "menopause movies" (typified by the likes of Gilbert Cates's Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams) and the sorrow-laden relationship gymnastics of Alain Resnais (Hiroshima Mon Amour).

Isobel (Kristen Harris) and Jack (Darcy Fehr) find themselves at loggerheads during a vacation in Paris. Jack has an opportunity to move to Bangkok and take a job that will see him working towards fighting against human trafficking. This means that Isobel must either drop her own career and join him or stay behind in their glorious house in their beloved winter city. Add to this mix of emotions is his adult son's disappearance.

Deborah Schnitzer's fine screenplay is well served by Carter's rich mise-en-scene which is supported by the sumptuous cinematography of veteran cameraman Ousama Rawi ("The Tudors", "Borgia" and such classic 70s films as Don Siegel's The Black Windmill and Edward Dmytryk's The Human Factor) and Taavo (The Hanging Garden) Soodor's impeccable production design.

One of the more perverse aspects of the picture is that so much of the film, set in Paris, is relegated to the scintillating verbal jousting between the couple in the cold atmosphere of an upscale hotel room and a touristy cocktail lounge. Here we are in a city of lights and romance, yet the film focuses its lens upon the claustrophic sniping of two people who are on the verge of a total breakdown.

Keri Latimer's haunting score and editor Chad Tremblay's hypnotic cutting both contribute immeasurably to Carter's pain-infused drama. Though this one-hour drama is lean and mean, one feels like it could well have sustained itself for even longer. This is one picture that would have benefitted greatly from overstaying its welcome.


Before Anything You Say premieres in competition at the 2017 Madrid International Film Festival