At night, everything is different. Cigarette smoke looks like mist, clouding thought and judgement. Conversations sound different; voices are exposed by silence, the truth more likely to slip out of your lips. It is a time when you are careful and carefree. This is the world created by director Nathalie Biancheri, who seamlessly and skilfully makes her fictional directorial debut with Nocturnal, a slow-burning drama that drips with angst, tension and possibility.
In a sleepy coastal town in Yorkshire, an unlikely and ultimately disturbing relationship begins to blossom between a 30-something caretaker and a young girl. Their story is one of nuance and subtlety, growing slowly over time, with neither protagonist seemingly sure as to what they want or need from the other. It dangles on the edge of discomfort, for characters and audience alike.
Biancheri’s foray into fiction is without a doubt successful. She has a way of framing the bleakness of sleepy city life – supported throughout the film by excellent visuals. In doing so, she creates a sense of nostalgia, an illusion of comfort within the story that is frequently broken down, making you want to look away but look closer at the same time. This, coupled with a darkly tormenting script, co-written by Olivia Waring, leaves the viewer entranced but uncomfortable.
Such is the crux of the feature: there is something implicitly wrong with the relationship, and yet the audience is drawn into the story. Perhaps this is due to the magnetism of lead actor Cosmo Jarvis in the role of Pete, who handles the character’s various intricacies and mannerisms with ease. However, credit must also be given to Lauren Coe, in the role of Laurie, who holds her own in each scene, conveying teenage angst and indecision in a way that doesn’t feel overplayed or clichéd – a difficult task. The pair are artfully supported throughout by a strong cast, but the narrative ultimately belongs to Coe and Jarvis.
Overall, however, it is clear that Nocturnal is quite simply a brilliant piece of cinema – a tale that unravels itself slowly, spilling unexpected secrets with every twist and turn. This movie is definitely one to watch.
Nocturnal is released nationwide on 18th September 2020.
Watch the trailer for Nocturnal here: