Stilted, wooden exploration of stilted, wooden characters.

Released in 2008, certified UK-Not Yet Rated. Reviewed on 31 Jul 2008 by Scott Morris
Helen image

While trudging out through the woods one day, an 18 year old is named Joy goes AWOL, with the police finding her possessions and clothes, including a bright yellow jacket which you I guaran-damn-tee will become sick of the sight of were you to watch this film. As is the way of these thing, the Po-Po decided to stage a reconstruction to help jog peoples memory. They cast the quiet, unassuming and generally unhappy Helen (Annie Townsend) in the role.

As part of the process she meets Joy's distraught parents, and decides for whatever reason to learn more about Joy's life, talking to Joy's boyfriend, having dinner with Joy's parents, and generally realising that Joy's life had a lot more love and happiness in it than her own had so far, and that she wouldn't mind taking the role of a permanent fill-in for the absent teen.

This is not, I have to concede, a bad idea for a film. What perhaps is a bad idea for a film, is to have a character study based on someone with no character whatsoever. Townsend acts with the natural warmth and consummate skill of a slab of formica, and the only startling thing about her performance is that they've managed to find even more wooden characters in the supporting roles that make her vaguely tolerable in comparison.

If you're waiting for events or revelations in Helen's character I'd advise you take a good book and possibly a pillow, and the film's pacing can best be described as 'plodding', or perhaps 'glacial'. Full of exceedingly slow pans over exceedingly mundane scenes and objects, the only coherency seems to be in making sure that damn jacket is in every single shot as some kind of garish, ill-advised motif. It's probably symbolic. Not of anything in particular, just symbolic. In general.

Helen image

So little happens in this film that it's difficult to know what exactly else to say, but let's mention this. Already in the recent past I've commented on two exceedingly minimal, largely event free films in the shape of The Red Awn and perhaps more directly comparable, With A Girl Of Black Soil. Not having explosions up the wazoo and the constant danger of hungry crocodiles mauling the leads is not necessarily a barrier to me liking a film, and despite similarly spartan plotting I very much enjoyed those two previously mentioned films.

Helen is a kettle of fish so different that it may as well actually be a kettle of fish for all the interest it held for me as a film. With a distinct lack of a captivating and likeable, or at least an interesting central performance to hang the film on Helen descends into a morass of boredom so dense that time actually stretches on approach to it, forming a sort of interest event horizon from which hope can never escape.

The concept for this, seemingly, started out as a short film and was stretched (and boy, was it ever stretched) into a feature. I think the general consensus around here is that it should instead have been shrunk into, well, nothingness, preferably. Recommended if you like boring drivel, otherwise, bodyswerve.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 1/5 TippyMarks.

Christine Molloy
Joe Lawlor
Cast list:
Annie Townsend (Helen)