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March 17, 2008 | by  | in Film |
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Red Road

Red Road is the first in a trilogy of films set in Glasgow with the same actors and characters. Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier (of Dancer in the Dark and Dogville fame, also known for his perennial hate of the USA, a place where he has never set foot) handed the actors and a few vague character sketches to first time writer/director Andrea Arnold.

Arnold’s Glasgow is a concrete ghetto of high-rise council flats, low grey skies, cigarette butts and no prospects. Jackie (Kate Dickie) is a reserved Glasgow council CCTV operator, who spends her working hours in a darkened room watching strangers around the city for signs of trouble. She is estranged from her extended family and conducts a loveless and passionless affair with a colleague in the back of his van. Watching the down and out inhabitants of the Red Road flats conduct their drug deals, sexual encounters and drunken fights amongst the dumpsters and weeds behind the flats, she thinks she sees a man from her past (Tony Curran) who should still be in jail. She begins to follow him, both on-screen and in real life, ingratiating herself into his gritty world. As the plot unfolds, at once gripping and disturbing, we are fed a number of clues as to what drives Jackie’s obsession with him.

Apart from being a bang-on, nailbiting psychological thriller, the film is also an engaging study of perception. Arnold adorns
Red Road with an unsettling blend of grainy surveillance shots, handheld camera and close ups of Jackie’s eyes. She successfully holds the atmosphere of apprehension and tension right up until Jackie’s shocking revelation and its bittersweet aftermath. Red Road is an intense yet overwhelmingly human film, probably the best I’ve seen yet this year. And it sure as hell put me off visiting Glasgow.

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