When young mother Jade (Vicky Knight) is horrifically scarred in a vicious acid attack at the hands of an abusive ex-partner, she finds herself left to pick up the pieces after recovering from facial reconstruction surgery in an attempt to live a normal life. With her infant daughter calling her a “monster” and others labelling her as a freak, however, Jade finds her situation unbearable and desperately reaches out to find an easy solution for her problems. A deeply moving and powerful allegory of endurance, Sacha Polak’s Dirty God is as uncompromising and authentic a drama as you can get.
This film would be nowhere near as successful as it is if it weren’t for a highly courageous performance by Knight in her first film role. Despite – or perhaps because of – her lack of artistic training, Knight feels completely natural and at ease in her performance, demonstrating a tangible connection with everyone she shares the frame with, making her journey all the more engaging. Likewise, being a burns survivor herself, the lengths Knight goes to onscreen to commit to her scenes alongside elements of her real-world experiences (though the story is completely fictionalised) renders her accomplishments all the more admirable.
By avoiding all the usual trappings of this breed of hard-hitting drama, Polak is simultaneously able to create well-defined, flawed characters and place them into a narrative that feels more realistic because of it. Notably, the filmmaker goes to great effort to show that the central characters are morally ambiguous in their actions. There are no victimised martyrs, no do-gooder friends or those with a sole motivation to drag Jade down a path of self-destruction; there are only humans, each with their own desires and problems. The only major exception would be Jade’s attacker, who appears predominately as a manifestation of her trauma during profound moments that delve into the protagonist’s psyche.
At it’s core, Dirty God is a thoughtful and provocative character-driven drama that manages to be just as uplifting as it is bleak. Although poor audio mixing can occasionally make it difficult to hear dialogue (specifically during the handful of scenes at nightclubs), this is but a small gripe in an otherwise breathtaking film.
Dirty God does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Glasgow Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Glasgow Film Festival website here.