Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 6:52 pm 
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Never let him go

Michael Lennox, a prize-winning short film director from Northern Ireland (with a 2014 Oscar nomination), chose a creepy tale of friendship by blackmail for his feature debut. It co-stars two actors from HBO shows. Conleth Hill of "Game of Thrones" plays Sandy Duffy, a well-off novelist whose only hit (same title as this movie) was 25 years ago. He now cruises on a late night TV talk show and lecturing on creative writing and has a secretive affair with the show hostess, Lucy (Lara Pulver). As a kind of side hobby he's hooked on the excitement of shop lifting. Along comes Robert, (Stephen Graham, Al Capone on "Boardwalk Empire") the security guard who catches Sandy on video pocketing a pen, and when Sandy begs not to be turned over to the cops, forces him to be his "friend." To show Robert's creepiness, his pet at home is a large snake. Both of these are characters you'd run to get away from, but Sandy can't get away from Robert, even when he begins to try.

That describes the whole film, unfortunately. Technically speaking, there are a few surprises, but they are not changes in the expected trajectory. Hence this feels more like a spun-out short film (or short story), or expanded "Twilight Zone" episode that runs too long, than a feature film. The production is good, and the acting is good. Hill and Graham play their roles very well. But they just don't have quite enough to do to fill this run-time.

A Patch of Fog, 92 mins., debuted at Toronto Sept. 2015; Edinburgh Jun. 2016, premiere on Japanese TV Dec. 2016. The reviewer for Hollywood Reporter wrote at Toronto that its "escalating implausibility is played too straight to even be enjoyably ridiculous." Scott Tobias of Variety noted an uncertainty of tone that is evident: he said the film can't decide if its stalker is "dangerously unhinged" or just "a social misfit." Andrew Pulver of the Guardian found the film "carefully constructed" but lacking the "lightness of touch" of Lennox's earlier work. Plays in the Mostly British Festival at Vogue Theater in San Francisco 17 Feb. US theatrical release 24 Jan. 2017.

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