Cherry Tree Lane

Cherry Tree Lane


Reviewed by: James Benefield

There are no two ways about it, Cherry Tree Lane is frightening. If Williams' movie doesn't induce feelings of nausea and extreme repulsion in a viewer, then that viewer needs to see a psychiatrist.

The film begins innocently enough, with a pan of broccoli boiling merrily away on a stove. Then the water starts spilling over the top of the pan. It turns out to be a pretty understated forewarning. A few minutes later, a gang of youths invade the house, tying up the two people inside - a man (Tom Butcher) and his wife (Rachael Blake). The gang are here to see Sebastian, the couple's son. But he's not here; the parents claim he is at football practice. It soon becomes clear that the motive for the invasion is drug-related. Apparently little Sebastian has grassed up the gang leader's cousin to the police.

Copy picture

What follows is an hour of the couple being psychologically and physically tortured. Curiously, we get to see little of it. We see the initial confrontation, and it's as unpleasant as you'd expect. But then a curtain of dread descends. At one point, the wife is taken upstairs. We hear a few screams and numerous knockings, but little else. Has she been raped, murdered or both? Or has she got the better of her tormentor? It's a while before we know. The camera remains in the living room with the remaining gang member, and the husband. It's coy.

So, while the obvious companion piece to Cherry Tree Lane is Funny Games, this shows it does deviate. Unlike Haneke's film, there is little moral lecturing here. The relative lack of explicit violence in Williams' piece means it's no comment on screen violence. In fact, it's not too clear what we are meant to glean from proceedings.

The movie could be many things. It could be a comment on the complacency of middle classes. There's a strong opposition to the 'hug a hoodie' mentality too; the couple try surrender, and it's treated with suspicion. It's worrying that there is no clear reason for this film to exist. It's as non-judgemental and matter of fact as it gets. But do we need any 'authorial' comment?

The only ongoing commentary is in its use of detail. For example, one of the first things one of the gang does, as he enters the couple's kitchen, is eat a biscuit. Another gang member wipes the husband's lips so the tape covering them up can stick properly.

It boils down to an exercise in horror and endurance. It's rare you see a film which will elicit such a guttural reaction from its audience. And even if this exists in a relatively context free zone, it's clearly extraordinary, masterful filmmaking.

Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2010
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Urban horror about a culture-clash between an upper-crust couple, and trouble with local boys.
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Director: Paul Andrew Williams

Writer: Paul Andrew Williams

Starring: Rachael Blake, Jennie Jacques, Tom Butcher, Sonny Muslim, Jumayn Hunter, Ashley Chin, Kieran Dooner, Corinne Douglas

Year: 2010

Runtime: 78 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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If you like this, try:

Eden Lake
Funny Games