Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Denis Menochet and Barry Keoghan in Norfolk
"Norfolk is as much a statement about land as it is about the people who live there." | Photo: Courtesy of EIFF

If you knew England only from the cinema, how would you imagine it? Two vistas predominate: the idyllic country gardens of Merchant Ivory productions and the grim urban landscapes of John Schlesinger and Ken Loach. Occasionally a camera might find its way up into the rugged hills, usually for a Brontë adaptation. Other parts of this diverse little country are generally ignored. Norfolk is as much a statement about land as it is about the people who live there, and it is this that gives it ts strength.

Writer/director Martin Radich has a background in cinematography which comes through strongly here as he works with DoP Tim Sidell to bring the landscape to life. Following characters who are all inclined to stay low, to hide in the underbrush or dart through the thick reeds beside the slow-flowing river, we see this place as an animal might, whilst JG Thirlwell's atonal soundscapes carry us further from familiar cinematic language. The resultant sense of disorientation is exacerbated by a dislocated narrative which provides no easy answers to even the most basic of questions.

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The first character we meet is a boy (Barry Keoghan). He patrols the area, scavenging, fishing, scampering around in a way that might be play - even if he's on the cusp of aging out of that - but which gradually comes to feel like something else. The boy lives with his father (Denis Ménochet, an inspired casting choice) who always seems to be on his guard. Their home contains a stack of televisions, all showing different channels. Nothing on the screens looks good, yet the televisions are the only real hint we have that civilisation continues to exist somewhere. All the characters we meet could be the survivors of some Apocalypse or other. they are ragged, dirty, living off the land. There's a sense that things have broken down, mirroring the psychological damage several have evidently suffered.

The boy is young; he alone seems to have an appetite for life. He meets a girl (wide eyed Goda Letkauskaite, cast after being spotted in a Romanian street) who says very little, suffers very much, and propels the plot forward much as an attractive piece of art might have done, almost entirely lacking in agency. Soon, the boy is being hunted, though he's unaware of it. Everything centres on his father and hi father's past. The man has killed before ad now he has been ordered to kill again.

A film built out of gestures, moody glances and lingering looks, Norfolk will be too obscure for many viewers to connect with - perhaps willfully so. Indeed, there are times when it just seems confused. Nevertheless, it creates a powerful atmosphere. You will leave expecting your feet to feel damp and your face chilled, as if you have really been to this place. You just might not be too sure what happened there.

Reviewed on: 26 Sep 2016
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A tough-love father's strong relationship with his teenage son is tested when the boy befriends a girl.
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Director: Martin Radich

Writer: Martin Radich

Starring: Denis Ménochet, Barry Keoghan, Goda Letkauskaite, Olegar Fedoro, Jason Beeston, Paul Watkins, Lyubomir Bukov, Rupert Procter, Sean Buckley, Eileen Davies, Ella Vale, Trevor Fox

Year: 2015

Runtime: 87 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


EIFF 2015
EastEnd 2015

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