Eye For Film >> Movies >> Antiquities (2018) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Bereavement is a popular theme in cinema, but most films that engage with it tend to focus on those awards-friendly moments when emotion is at its most intense. Antiquities picks up its story a little later. Though protagonist Walt (Andrew J West) has yet to process all his grief over the loss of his father - if, indeed, he ever will - he's moved on from immediate distress to a point at which he wants to learn more about a man he didn't know well in life. In the hope of achieving this, he has moved back to the town where he grew up, moved in with an aunt who's still in denial about what has happened, and taken a job at the antiques emporium where his father worked for many years. Getting to know the other dealers there helps him on his quest but also takes him in unexpected directions.
It's often said that understanding history is vital to understanding the present, and perhaps inevitably, Walt's discoveries about his father change the way he sees himself. In its early stages, the film feels as though it might stick a little too closely to this formula to be interesting, and mannered acting makes it difficult to connect with the studiously quirky characters - but over time, as we get to know them better, their humanity emerges and, with it, a surprisingly moving drama. What feels initially like forced comedy reveals itself as an expression of the awkwardness of these troubled individuals and segues into affectionate character-driven humour as the story develops.
West is impressive in the central role, keeping his character interesting despite being the 'normal' one. Walt's pursuit of romance with endlessly facetious co-worker Ellie (Ashley Greene) is somewhat jarring but even if audience members don't see the appeal, West makes us believe that it's real. Ellie is sympathetic in her way even when she's insufferable, and the two characters' fates are linked by secrets buried in the past. As every antique hunter knows, however, the first story attached to an object is not always the real one. It's important not to jump to conclusions.
Everybody working in the emporium has some kind of story. There's the man who sits in his booth stroking his little dog and doesn't want to let anything go. The man who continually sabotages his social and romantic prospects by trying to mask his insecurity with tall tales. The man whose mother is sleeping with the owner (his one time schoolfriend), who believes he's next in line to take over until Walt arrives and inadvertently spoils it all. It's in the bonds between them that writer/director Daniel Campbell finds warmth and that little bit of magic that defies the sense of loss at the centre of the narrative. Marvellously detailed sets and splendid use of colour give the film visual charm and make the emporium into a character in its own right.
A smartly observed film with a sweet centre, Antiquities takes old themes and polishes them up until they shine.Reviewed on: 20 Jun 2018