Aden (Nabhaan Rizwan) is a fledgling actor in London struggling to land any roles in Naqqash Khalid’s genius feature debut In Camera. The first time Aden is seen on screen, he’s playing a bloodied corpse in a police drama (he’s not even initially framed as the protagonist in this film). He spends most of his time auditioning for productions that show him little curtesy and leave him waiting in tiny rooms filled with other non-white actors dressed identically. When he meets his new flatmate, a successful fashion consultant named Conrad (Limbo’s Amir El-Masry), he begins to realise that he can make a new role for himself.
There are notes of Yargos Lanthimos’s surrealist flavour of satire throughout, as the filmmaker gleefully takes aim at the UK film industry’s relation with race. In one audition, Aden is asked by a disinterested assistant to try a nonspecific Middle Eastern accent as he reads for the role of a terrorist. In another, other hopefuls tell him that one Asian actor always gets the roles he auditions for because he’s “unproblematic”. The screenplay never loses its razor-sharp edge or humour, with striking cinematography further adding to the surrealness of Aden’s world. However, it’s Rizwan’s endlessly compelling performance and flawless delivery, which will keep audiences engaged in his quest to find a role.
Running parallel to Aden’s story is a subplot involving his other flatmate, an overworked junior doctor played by Rory Fleck Byrne. His constant nightshifts have left him so exhausted that he hallucinates hospital vending machines in the middle of roads and dreams about a bleeding building. Aside from slices of wonderfully strange imagery, though, this entire section of the screenplay contributes little to the overall plot and feels more like an unnecessary distraction to the main event.
It’s after a gut-wrenching scene where Aden plays a grieving couple’s son, however, where things begin to go awry. The script begins to wander from one scene to the next with no purposeful sense of direction. Things don’t quite come together by the end, and while Aden’s conclusion is a fitting full-circle moment for the character, it’s nevertheless a disappointingly unfulfilling finale to Khalid’s otherwise cleverly written debut.
In Camera does not have a UK release date yet.
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