Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"So much depends on Freya Park's performance as Tasha. She achieves something many young actors would be afraid to try."

Trouble at 't mill with the rent, the Social and an abusive husband. Dysfunction in South Shields? Hardly blissful.

This could be Ken Loach country, but it's not. This is Tasha's story. She's the eldest - lanky, teenage, dour and difficult.

Same old, you might think. Kids these days... blah!

It's not like that. Her mum was one of those party girls, spoiled rotten by the fellas when she was young, when she had ambitions to be a singer, a star, attracted, as so often happens, to the bad boys, and she now works behind the bar in a club, married to Charlie who beats her up and scares the kids, drinking too much, not sleeping, not coping.

Tasha discovers that Charlie is not her dad. Apparently her dad is a Norwegian, called The Viking. Her mum can't remember his real name. Tasha and her younger sister run away and are picked up by the police. Tasha won't speak, won't tell them her name, won't tell them anything. They call the Social and the girls escape and go home.

The next chapter is Norway, the search, the adventure, the pain of not knowing, Tasha on her own, scamming her way, slipping between the cracks, accepting the help of strangers, looking for The Viking.

As a debut feature film from director Rita Osei, Bliss! has ambition and courage. So much depends on Freya Park's performance as Tasha. She achieves something many young actors would be afraid to try. She makes herself unattractive, accentuating the anger against authority, refusing to play by the rules, avoiding sympathy by shutting it out. She gives subtle hints of Tasha's vulnerability while presenting a harsher attitude. It is a considerable achievement.

The plot runs dry. The scenes in Norway look as if they have been approved officially by the tourist office. Everyone is so nice and the end, with its eulogy to family, feels a little too good for a film with bleeding knuckles.

Reviewed on: 18 Jun 2016
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A runaway teen goes in search of her father.

Director: Rita Osei

Writer: Alex Ferguson, Rita Osei, Rita Osei, Jenny Wilkes

Starring: David Leon, Reece Noi, Joshua Osei, Montserrat Lombard, Lars Arentz-Hansen, Freya Parks, Kim Tserkezie, Gitte Witt, Philip Correia, Hilary Tones, Lauren Johns, Jimmy Knights, Emma James, Natasha Haws, Chloe Cuskin

Year: 2016

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2016

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