A Patch Of Fog


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

A Patch Of Fog
"Despite the considerable talents of the two leads it all ends up feeling rather flat."

A Patch Of Fog, the novel that made Sandy Duffy's name, was published decades ago. He hasn't done much since, but it has paid for his comfortable home and lifestyle, and though he says he's sick of talking about it, he's willing to give an exclusive interview to the TV presenter (Lara Pulver) with whom he's romantically involved. But Sandy (Conleth Hill) has a bad habit: he's a kleptomaniac. It's only little things. It's not about gain, it's about the thrill. A thrill that could lead somewhere very dangerous indeed.

Robert (Stephen Graham) is a security guard who, as he puts it, has always had trouble making friends. When he catches Sandy red handed and discovers how terrified the older man is of having his reputation trashed, he thinks his luck is in. Perhaps Sandy should count himself lucky All Robert really wants is his companionship - or so it seems. But he's unaccustomed to being in someone's power, just as Robert is unaccustomed to having power, and as the situation deteriorates, both men are pushed to their limits.

A Patch Of Fog may be a film with literary themes but it's no Morvern Callar. The script, sadly, is its weak point and means that despite the considerable talents of the two leads it all ends up feeling rather flat. There are two central problems. Firstly, the plot feels forced and unrealistic. Secondly, in bringing events to a close it uses every available cliché and squanders its literary potential in favour of pat explanations and heavy-handed links.

There is, essentially, inadequate reason for Sandy to allow himself to be blackmailed as he does. Attempts made to address this fall flat - it would simply be too easy for him to wriggle out of any serious trouble, and a whiff of scandal is frequently a good thing for a writer's career. Robert, meanwhile, might have sprung into existence just as the story begins (indeed, it would have been much more interesting if viewers had been left wondering whether or not he was real) because he lacks any visible past and it's difficult to believe that somebody in his position, with his particular concerns, wouldn't have tried this sort of thing before - in fact, the creepiest moment in the film comes when it looks as if he might try it again. Making a character obsessive is one thing; giving them no other life at all just doesn't work.

Hill is solid as ever but the script doesn't give him quite as much space as he needs to bring out the sinister side of Sandy's character, something that might have created a better balanced film. Graham, meanwhile, brings a lot of additional nuance to Robert, making him both disturbing and sympathetic, but his previous work has shown that he can do much more with stronger material. Michael Lennox, making his debut feature, relies too much on external shadows at the expense of internal ones. Where the film could benefit from being murky it is merely dark.

As a straightforward thriller, this works well enough. It's well paced and has moments of real tension. At ts core, however, there is a much stronger film which never gets enough oxygen.

The film is available on VOD across all major digital platforms including iTunes, Amazon, SkyStore and Virgin Media.

Reviewed on: 05 Jul 2016
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A security guard blackmails a TV host.


EIFF 2016

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