Eye For Film >> Movies >> Stutterer (2015) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Greenwood (Matthew Needham) loves language. Letters, words, fonts, sentences, paragraphs. He works as a typographer in a beautifully realised office and in his spare time he chats online with Elle (Chloe Pirrie), the long-distance girlfriend he's never met. In this context, words come easily, but when he tries to express them from his mouth, they stick.
Greenwood has a stutter. It's a severe one. He braves it out with his dad (Eric Richard), since his dad understands and is patient, but in other situations, such as when he needs to speak to a call centre agent, it's just impossible. Sometimes, in person, he simply uses sign language, representing himself as mute - it's close enough to the truth and people understand it better. As so often with disability, a severe problem is treated with respect but one only slightly less limiting is a potential subject for ridicule.
Stutterer (a challenging word to pronounce if ever there were one) provokes its viewers by making us watch as Greenwood struggles to find words; it's not an oft repeated technique but it's just enough to make us question our own prejudices, even where they affect us unconsciously. Do you want to turn away, to watch something else? Imagine what it's like to have that effect on people, the film suggests. The difficulty, though, is that you might want to turn away for another reason - Greenwood is, at times, insufferably annoying. When he shares his thoughts, especially his impressions of strangers, one has to wonder if he is, in fact, safer due to his silence. Then again, perhaps being able to interact more naturally would improve his social skills.
The plot of Stutterer is driven by one simple concern: Elle is visiting London and has asked to meet Greenwood in person. Like many stutterers, it seems, he's kept his problem secret. He's a man for whom small day to day interactions can present an overwhelming challenge. How can he summon up the courage to try and communicate, face to face, with one of the most important people in his life?
An intelligent film which ably demonstrates how disability can complicate life, Stutterer deserves a lot of praise for its script, direction and editing. It's just a shame that Greenwood himself is no more sympathetic, as this makes it difficult to invest in the central romance.Reviewed on: 26 Jan 2016