Photos Of God

Photos Of God


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Aaron cares for his disabled mother. He's a Jack White looking cove, drawn, weary. She's in a wheelchair, but that's not the real difficulty. There is a guilt, here, an oppressive weight that overwhelms. There is a moment, a conversation about heaven; it is soul destroying.

In places Photos of God is an emotional ordeal, a sublime torment, finely judged and heart-breaking. In others, sadly, it feels clumsy, leaden, needlessly expository, even randomly so. It's written and directed by Paul Wright and it feels almost unfair to compare it to his BAFTA winning Until The River Runs Red but the two are so much alike, so proximate in tone and form and substance that were they to be framed as a diptych or two legs of a trilogy then it would not feel unfair or surprising.

There is the unacknowledged event in the past, the things happening half-seen, the alienation. There are the interstitial moments, archive footage, interviews: some of these elements work, but others feel forced; why tell us his (estranged) father's house has two bedrooms? Why the goat?

There may be a layering here, an allegorical myth-structuring as with Lin - certainly bedrooms, or at least Aaron's sister's room have a dread import. If there is an absolute subtlety here, then it's hidden among other subtleties, allusion and implicature muddied by exposition.

It's still good, even very good, but there are moments that weaken it. Not in the performances, not even really in the execution, just tonally, rhythmically. As Aaron, relative newcomer Farren Morgan is excellent. The film is not all that rests on his adolescent shoulders, the masks he finds himself wearing confining, suffocating. As his mother, Cathy Walker is haunting, lonely - a scream in a swimming pool acquires new meaning every time it is considered. Mention must also be made of Jemma Stephens, who intersects the narrative at a startlingly oblique angle - as one of those 'phone babes' from the upper reaches of cable and satellite television she is angelic and something else - a call for help from Aaron is staggering in its bravery, within the film, as the film.

This is not comfortable viewing. It unsettles, at times unintentionally, brief moments where tone slips. It discomfits, usually deliberately, music colour tone and the drip drip drip of discovery. It ends with Dusty Springfield's Take Another Little Piece Of My Heart, but just before that soundtrack to contemplation, breathing - a hand that might be bloodied, a kid running free.

Alone, of itself, Photos of God is staggering - a knife twisting in a wound. Compared to Until The River Runs Red it's merely very good, less confident, perhaps, less assured, shuffle-footed where the other soars. It feels like a bird with its wings clipped, and that makes what is undeniably a tragedy sad in a different way.

I cannot know if that's unfair. I can tell you that it might be. I can tell you that any measure of misjudgement or callousness or uncertainty on my part pales in comparison to that in the film. I can tell you that it's a sure signal that Wright's success isn't accidental. I can tell you that they take her to see animals, that she's "over there", that Photos Of God is a hollow in the stomach. I can tell you that should you have the chance to see this film you ought to.

Reviewed on: 24 Feb 2011
Share this with others on...
A teenage boy looks after his disabled mother as both wrestle with memories of how life used to be.
Amazon link

Director: Paul Wright

Starring: David Molyneux, Farren Morgan, Jemma Stephens, Cathy Walker

Year: 2010

Runtime: 28 minutes

Country: UK


Glasgow 2011

Search database: