Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"A beautifully observed portrait of a couple in crisis."

In an elegantly filmed sequence about halfway through Mikey Murray’s accomplished début feature, Lucy (Eilis Cahill) stands at a tall office window watching cars circle a roundabout backwards and disappear. She’s a small, dark figure going nowhere in a world of neat suburban houses and ordered lives. How did she come to be so lonely, to feel so out of place? Murray offers viewers a superficially conventional storyline with a straightforward explanation and solution, but there is a great deal more going on beneath the surface; his characters are not that simple.

Lucy is married to Paul (Steve Oram). We see them together in the opening scene, when they’re lying in bed together putting one another off sex with mundane and vaguely irritable conversation. She doesn’t find him very attractive and he knows it, doesn’t blame her for it. His sadness comes from elsewhere. Later, when they’re hosting a costume party in their home (her house, it is explained, as she inherited quite a bit of money), he discourses at length how their new bidet works, apparently fascinating some of the guests, whilst she catches the eye of the new guy from her workplace, Daniel (Peter Bankolé). He’s young, smart, confident, recently arrived from London. Soon he will invite her to join him for games of squash. She used to be good at tennis and Paul has been encouraging her to get active again.

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Over the days which follow, Lucy spends more and more time with Daniel. We see her begin to change, to come alive. Paul is worried, but not quite in the way you might expect. He wishes that he could trust her to take her pills.

A beautifully observed portrait of a couple in crisis, Mind-Set focuses in on the small ways in which people who have been together for a long time understand each other, lie to each other and themselves, try to be honest about the big things and continually fail to surprise each other. Small exchanges reveal hidden meanings. Why won’t Paul go for a walk in the park? Why is Lucy cautious about acting on impulse? Then there are the elephants in the rooms: a well-worn fuzzy one sitting on a shelf, looking as if it had been somebody’s companion before they were together; and a small wooden one beside the toilet which each of them prefers to have facing in a different direction, perhaps an indicator of resentment, perhaps an affectionate form of communication. Every aspect of the detailed set dressing tells us something about their history, their teamwork.

In the absence of sexual compatibility, of excitement, these things which Hollywood has taught us relationships ought to revolve around, love runs deep. She trusts in his nerdiness to produce something of value. He delights in her fierceness when she runs out of patience with a guest. There are some fantastic supporting performances from actors who could easily dominate their scenes if they so chose, but everything is kept carefully in balance. Murray trusts the leads to make the most of his carefully layered dialogue, and they do.

Mind-Set had a limited release in the UK, touring independent cinemas. One hopes that it will make the leap into other formats, because it’s well worth seeking out.

Reviewed on: 10 Aug 2022
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A disillusioned office clerk who lives in a dysfunctional relationship with her slovenly partner is surprised to find herself on the cusp of a none-too-secret affair.
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Director: Mikey Murray

Writer: Mikey Murray

Starring: Eilis Cahill, Steve Oram, Peter Bankolé, Pauline Lynch, Rhiannon Wyn, Andrew John Tait, Jason Isaacs

Year: 2022

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: UK


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