The Ice Cream Truck


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Ice Cream Truck
"The film is heavy with sexual tension, primarily explored from a female point of view. It's also rich in humour, the two often interwoven to great effect."

Suburbia: it is, to borrow a phrase from Excalibur's Merlin, a dream to some, a nightmare to others. Many of us flee it as teenagers only to return as young parents, convinced that it'll be the right kind of place to raise the kids. Mary (Deanna Russo) is one such person. She's there two weeks ahead of the rest of the family, organising some of the deliveries and getting to know the neighbourhood before they join her at the end of the school term. A conversation with a studiously vacant neighbour causes her old doubts to resurface, but she tries to focus on the positive. This quaint, old fashioned place even has an ice cream truck.

America's obsession with a mythical Fifties golden age mingles here with a culture of bored housewives getting shitfaced on vodka cocktails at community barbecues whilst their largely absent husbands smile and look the other way. Their kids, meanwhile, slink off to smoke cannabis and engage in illicit sex. Some things are timeless. Likewise a certain underlying threat. The removal man (Jeff Daniel Phillips) who turns up at Mary's door, alone, lingers in her bedroom, asks if she's alone, if she needs anything else, stands in the doorway when she wants to leave the room. Staring at her like a Nick Cave character, he leaves a stain on the pastel coloured fabric of the film that never fades. We can feel his presence long after he's gone, and perhaps it's this that causes something inside Mary to shift.

Copy picture

Two weeks is a long time to be alone in the suburbs. Especially when there may be a serial killer on the loose. Emil Johnsen's neatly uniformed ice cream salesman smiles like a snake. The neighbour's bored teenager (John Redlinger), all bright eyes and chiselled jaw, offers Mary more than just yard work. His girlfriend goes missing. Mary takes drugs, but just a little. She's trying to stay in control.

Cinematographer Stephen Tringali imbues the broad, tree-lined streets of the San Fernando Valley with an ambience that recalls the darkness of Blue Velvet and the kitsch of Edward Scissorhands, but the wide glass-fronted houses are more redolent of Yevgeny Zamyatin's We. Mary is constantly visible to potential predators, yet whenever her own sexuality comes to the fore, she is curiously invisible. She lies about a scratch on her hand with the ease of someone who does it habitually. Russo's performance is carefully balanced, letting us in, letting us connect with her emotions and her take on events, let leaving us ultimately unsure if we know who she is or what she's done.

Dream and reality blur all too easily in an environment where everybody seems to be retreating from the latter. The ice cream man says that his personal favourite is rum and raisin. The classic colours of his van are now shades reserved for hospitals; the plastic curtain in the back makes one think of psychiatric wards. The film is heavy with sexual tension, primarily explored from a female point of view. It's also rich in humour, the two often interwoven to great effect.

With a highly distinctive style and a pleasing resistance to narrative convention, The Ice Cream Truck is a potent, moody, highly entertaining little film that you'll want to watch at least twice.

Reviewed on: 27 Oct 2017
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Mary moves back to her suburban hometown to find that the suburbs are scarier in more ways than she ever remembered.

Director: Megan Freels Johnston

Writer: Megan Freels Johnston

Starring: Deanna Russo, Emil Johnsen, John Redlinger, Sam Schweikert, Hilary Barraford

Year: 2017

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: US


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