London Film Festival 2021: True Things Review

So now we’ve got to the films I’m watching at this year’s London Film Festival on BFI Player. For the first one, I decided to go with True Things. I really enjoyed Harry Wootliff’s previous film, Only You, and I was interested to see what her next film would be. Unfortunately, I think that the whole of the film is weaker than the sum of its parts.

The film follows Kate, a woman working at a job centre, who starts a relationship with a man known as Blond after he comes in to make a claim. As the relationship between the two develops, it becomes clear that Blond is a gaslighting and controlling influence, causing more harm to Kate’s life. I found the film to be an interesting look at how a controlling relationship can develop, showing the charm that Blond has and how he is able to romance Kate, along with believably showing how Blond is a controlling influence. There are also interesting elements at play with how Kate is dissatisfied with her life and wants to live more vicariously, with the realities of life bringing her down. The thing that brings the film down though is that the relationships Kate has with the other characters outside of Blond feel underdeveloped. This in turn, means that the general core of the film and the way Kate interacts with the world doesn’t feel as fully formed as it could have been.

The performances though help to make the film work. Ruth Wilson is excellent at showing the dissatisfaction Kate feels with her life, showing the feelings of loneliness of the character and how willing she is to find some form of escapism from her mundane life. As such, we understand why Kate is attracted to Blond and why she is willing to make so many concessions for him. Without someone as strong as Ruth Wilson in the lead, the film would not have worked. Tom Burke meanwhile is well cast as Blond. As his performance in The Souvenir demonstrated, Burke is great at playing a gaslighting individual and he puts these skills to good use here. He also has good chemistry with Wilson, making their relationship feel believable. The rest of the cast though feel underutilised, especially Hayley Squires. Her role feels very generic and needed to be developed more. As it is, the writing for her character doesn’t allow Squires to shine as a performer, she is talented enough to make something work with the character, but her role just doesn’t gel in the rest of the film as it should have done and she kind of disappears for long stretches of the film.

The technical elements of the film though add some weight to the film. The 4:3 aspect ratio and the way Ruth Wilson is framed creates a tense, claustrophobic feel which does a good job at putting you in the mindset of Kate. The location filming meanwhile creates this drab atmosphere, helping us to understand why Kate wants an escape.

Overall, True Things is a bit of a frustrating film. The elements around Kate as an individual are well handled and Ruth Wilson is excellent, but most of the film around her feels a bit underdeveloped and needed a bit more work to make it more compelling. As it is, I did think this was a bit of a disappointment.

My Rating: 3/5

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