Daphne

****

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Daphne
"It's an unfairness to the quality of her supporting cost to mention how good Beecham is again and again, but life isn't fair."

It's the little things that make life worth living. The taste of rare cheese on a plant strewn stairwell, chatting to the delivery driver from the place that'll use fresh chillies if you ask, a walk in the park with your mother, curling up on the sofa with a good book, scoring in a nightclub bathroom, bumping into the bouncer who threw and kept you out some nights before, witnessing a violent crime. There's more and worse.

A charming portrait of dysfunction, the depressig consequences of life as a manic pixie dream girl - except that's unfair, too cynical, too flippant, not focused on others, too concealing of actual damages - like Daphne herself.

Emily Beecham is stunning in her central role in this exploration of problematic relationships, one helped by what appears to be a solid working relationship. Director Peter Mackie Burns, writer Nico Mensinga, and Beecham all worked together on thematically proximate short Happy Birthday To Me, and one both hopes and suspects that as a dress rehearsal for this film it explains the polish. This is a technically proficient piece of film-making, highlighting elements of performance in subtle ways. There's a conversation in a counsellor's office, later, which is at one point framed technically as a two-shot, but as the camera creeps slowly across the notion of other people and their perspective is rumbling away in what is technically the background. It's a powerful moment, built on creating space around fragility - as is Daphne's existence.

There are moments of stillness, moments of action, repeated shots from rooftops of Daphne as flaneuse - except that's a sufficiently pretentious way of describing her meanderings that she might use it herself. Those whose proverbial business cards suggest they are raconteurs and bon viveurs are more commonly referred to as lying drunks.

One of those sessions of Daphne's, caught by that guttering observer, produces a moment of genuine humour and magic, as well as a charming musical credit. You'll know them both when you see them, and though one might fear that kind of familiarity with this ostensibly conventional tale of a troubled life, it's in the subtleties and details that not only redeem Daphne but commend it. It's an unfairness to the quality of her supporting cost to mention how good Beecham is again and again, but life isn't fair, sometimes you've got to "just get on with it".

This the film does with aplomb. Filled with detail, it's much more able than its eponymous heroine to realise potential, from the allusive weight of pet snakes and failed recipes to the contrast between extremes of decisiveness displayed in the same pub in the space of a couple of hours. There are moments of genuine discomfort, and even when the mood is light it's masking something darker. Indeed, that lightness is at times only a consequence of the bleakness around it - there's more than one phrase that starts 'manic-' and they don't all refer to movie tropes. Daphne is a piece of work and, to bang the same drum in the hope that it'll do the trick again, so is the film.

Reviewed on: 23 Aug 2017
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A young woman finds herself thrown off balance after she saves the life of a shopkeeper.


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