The West Wittering Affair

The West Wittering Affair


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

If Woody Allen, or Neil LaBute, had made this film, you would not have batted an eye. The sharp dialogue, biting sexual satire and spiky humour that cuts so close it hurts to laugh feels uncomfortably familiar and the cast of four are so natural you imagine they're speaking for real, not from a script, which is exactly what they are doing.

Improv seldom works in cinema; it tends to mess up. In this case, the opposite is true. It is clever without being self-indulgent and witty without sounding pretentious. The plot twists around an incident in a country cottage one hot summer's night. Kath (Sarah Sutcliffe) asks her best friend Natasha (Rebecca Cardinale) and husband Greg (David Annen) down for the weekend, as well as Jamie (Danny Scheinmann), a bloke she met at a party and quite fancied. "If I get a shag out of this, I'll eat my socks," she confesses to Natasha, who is in no fit state to think about such things.

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Greg is a trendy, barefoot shrink, who plays a trick on his wife, in order to spice up their love life. He buys a pair of silk frilly knickers and leaves them in his coat pocket for her to find. Of course, Natasha goes ballistic, locks him in the lav and takes off for West Wittering, spitting fire. When Jamie arrives, he hasn't a clue. Kath is trying to calm Natasha down and Jamie has the look of a nervous ferret, as if the presence of these two attractive women might strike him blind.

Already, the characters are beautifully realised - Jamie the habitual loser who might get lucky; Kath the lonely thirthysomething who hasn't had sex for months; Natasha the practical cat with steel for claws; Greg the soft-voiced therapist who uses words as bandages - and the performances respond in kind - sexy, angry, funny, sad, hungry, strong and, above all, genuine. Being with them is a constant pleasure.

Of course, Jamie gets lucky - twice - which causes all kinds of trouble. He ends up going to a psychiatrist (guess who?) to make sense of his feelings. This only adds to the emotional mayhem. As an example of a film, made by friends, as a communal creative experiment, The West Wittering Affair has a structure and a shape far more sophisticated than you might dare to expect. Kath's video diary is a cunning method of using narrative voice-over without seeming to do so. The improv dialogue rings true and the plot is consistently surprising, while the soundtrack, containing 15 original songs by unsigned artists, is a bonus.

The British premiere took place as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it can be seen at Venue C-Electric (the former Odeon on Clerk Street) at 11pm until the end of August. Make the journey, take the risk. This film deserves to be seen. Its intelligence shines forth and its cynicism concerning love and marriage fits the uncertain realities of a brave new world where men need to remind themselves which end is up.

"I feel I've walked into the wrong room and I don't know the way out," one of the girls says.

It's the right room.

Reviewed on: 08 Aug 2005
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Improvised four hander unravels the farcical complexities of modern romance.
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Director: David Scheinmann

Writer: Danny Scheinmann, Sarah Sutcliffe, Rebecca Cardinale, David Annen

Starring: Danny Scheinmann, Sarah Sutcliffe, Rebecca Cardinale, David Annen, Poppy Sue Scheinmann

Year: 2004

Runtime: 87 minutes

Country: UK


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