She Is Love
Remarkably, She Is Love marks director Jamie Adams’s 10th feature in eight years. Far from reflecting a creative tank running on reserves, however, the film is the product of a director brimming with energy and confidence in his craft. Two excellent central performances from Sam Riley and Haley Bennett tinge this energy with the world-weariness of late 30-somethings, the dust of whose dreams have settled into shapes they never imagined would resemble their lives.
Riley and Bennett play a divorced couple, Idris and Patricia respectively, who cross paths for the first time in 10 years when Patricia, via an absurd twist of fate, happens to be staying at the country house bed and breakfast run by Idris’s girlfriend (Marisa Abela). Patricia is an almost unrelenting character with an exhausting, childlike disposition, while Idris spends much of his time behind his mixing desks, working on remixes of remixes of his old songs, songs which earned him a success which has faded into the dreaded realm of past glory. Fast approaching his 40th birthday; keeping the flames of youthful ambitions alive is a matter of existential importance.
The film shape-shifts throughout. A spritely, mischievous score accompanies an opening act characterised by the tropes of a very English comedy of manners but plunges unforeseen depths of poignancy when an indulgent trudge through memory lane metamorphosises into reenactment. She Is Love falls into a lineage of films in which the choice to drink is just as revealing as anything a character says, like Clint Eastwood’s William Munny in Unforgiven. The reversion into an unresolved past is complete when Idris brings out a bottle of whiskey, and without conviction, lights a cigarette indoors in a tentative manner which suggests his understanding of the implication. What follows is an unruly night of cathartic intemperance in which they literally wear the face paint and cloaks of ghosts; their lapse into a bygone time which is dead but not reckoned with quite literally summons the ghosts of relationship past.
Adams’s touch is light and broadly lets the camera do the work in capturing the remarkable performances of Riley and Bennett, who instil that forlorn sadness of children trapped in the bodies of adults who have never really let go. Their performances also feel imbued with an improvisational freedom which, as their night descends further into debauchery, is filmed with a handheld looseness which is almost intoxicating in itself.
More than the fog of inebriation that wafts its way through the aisles of the theatre from the screen, however, is the sense that the movie is a ghost story at its most human and intimate. They are ghosts that everyone locks away, oftentimes throwing the key in the river to rust. She Is Love is an almost fantastical, surprisingly poetic, meditation on what could happen should the lock blow.
She Is Love is released nationwide on 3rd February 2023.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for She Is Love here: