The War Zone

The War Zone


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Searing texts equate with excellence. Words such as "brave", "gritty" and "breaking new barriers" are flung about. Gary Oldman made Nil By Mouth, which many people found too tough to watch. Critics went into raptures. It had the ring of truth. It also had Ray Winstone.

The War Zone is not entirely convincing. It is tougher to watch and probably the most depressing film ever made. It is based on a novel and adapted by the author, Alexander Stuart. Performances by the two teenagers, Lara Belmont and Freddie Cunliffe, who have never acted before, are remarkable. Much credit for this must go to first time director, Tim Roth.

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The setting is rural Devon. Shots of angry waves smashing against rocks have an obvious symbolism. The weather is never less than foul. A mood of lonely, sombre, brooding despair hangs about the dark, cheaply-furnished rooms of the isolated cottage. Sex is cold and ugly. Life has no meaning. The one sweet thing is Alice, a newborn baby, who gets sick.

The family is from London. Why they have decided to live in the middle of nowhere, where the teenage kids, Jessie and Tom, are so miserable they can hardly speak, is not elucidated.

Dad (Winstone) is kind and loving to Mum (Tilda Swinton), while taking Jessie to an obsolete machine-gun post on the cliff top and sodomising her. Tom watches. The cycle of anguish is complete. Why? What is being expressed here? That men like Dad can live in denial and believe they don't do what they do? That a girl as hard and damaged as Jessie would allow this to happen? That voyeurism brutalises the voyeur? There is no explanation. No answer. The pain of witness does not compensate.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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The War Zone packshot
Repression and sexual abuse haunt a family.
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Director: Tim Roth

Writer: Alexander Stuart

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Ray Winstone, Lara Belmont, Freddie Cunliffe, Aisling O'Sullivan, Kate Ashfield, Ray Winstone, Colin Farrell

Year: 1999

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


EIFF 1999

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