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4.1 out of 5 stars
Shell [Blu-ray]
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 5 July 2013
Graham Scott's debut full length film is a beautiful, haunting study of relationships and loneliness. The acting is mesmerising, the use absence of music and use of natural sounds creates tension. I've often found myself travelling the remote roads in Wester Ross where this film is set wondering about the life's of those living in such solitude and it was no surprise to learn that this was the same experience Scott Graham had that led him to create this script. I was left with strong feelings long after watching this film, not all positive but certainly deep and real. Graham uses natural sounds, absence of script, nature and wonderful acting in a manner that Terrence Mallick strives for but all too often doesn't achieve. This film will not be everyone's taste and many will find it slow, ponderous and depressing. I found it a deep emotional experience with images that have remained with me long after watching it. I look forward to the next film from Scott Graham and the next performance from Chloe Pirrie.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2013
Scottish screenwriter and director Scott Graham`s feature film debut which he wrote, premiered in the New Directors section at the 60th San Sebastián International Film Festival in 2012, was shot on location in Scotland and is a UK production which was produced by producers David Smith and Margaret Matheson. It tells the story about a 17-year-old woman named Shell who lives with her father named Pete at a gas station in the Scottish countryside which he made years ago. Shell spends most of her days waiting for new customers and most of the time meets people who are just passing by. She has become friendly with a middle-aged man named Hugh who usually makes a stop at their place when he is on his way to see his children who lives with their mother and is sometimes visited by a man close to her age named Adam who works at a sawmill nearby and who seeks her company, but Shell`s only constant is her father whom she has grown as attached to as any daughter could to her father.

Distinctly and acutely directed by Scottish filmmaker Scott Graham, this quietly paced fictional tale which is narrated mostly from the main character`s point of view, draws a silently reflective and consistently moving portrayal of a strangely though understandably affectionate relationship between a man whom is suffering both from illness and personal experiences and his daughter whose only communication with the outside world, which is an enigma to her, is through brief encounters with various passers-by. While notable for it`s naturalistic and prominent milieu depictions, evocative and masterful cinematography by cinematographer Yoliswa Gärtig, fine production design by production designer James Lapsley and use of sound and music, this narrative-driven story about blood ties and an increasingly isolating dependency that has kept two people inseparable, depicts two interrelated studies of character regarding two relatives who are becoming painfully aware of how chained they are to each other and how stuck they have become.

This refined, situational and authentic coming-of-age drama which is set mostly at a remote roadside petrol station in the Scottish highlands during an autumn and where a single parent and his only child whom is in the transition between adolescence and adulthood is being internally changed and differently affected by the majestic landscape which surrounds and contrasts them and is a character in itself, is impelled and reinforced by it`s fleeting narrative structure, substantial character development, subtle continuity, graceful melancholy and psychological depth, poignant conversations, discreet humour, humane characters and the perceptive acting performances by Scottish actress Chloe Pirrie, English actor Joseph Mawle, Irish actor Michael Smiley, Scottish actress Kate Dickie and Scottish actor Iain De Caestecker. A mythical, cinematographic and mysteriously atmospheric character piece about the human condition and a timeless narrative feature which is one of the finest Scottish films in recent years.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 August 2014
This 2012 debut feature from Scottish film-maker Scott Graham attempts to make a 'cinematic spectacle’ of solitude and loneliness – never an easy challenge to meet, of course, but Graham does a remarkable job here in what is a slow-moving, subtle and atmospheric watch. Chloe Pirrie’s titular 17-year old and her father (and epileptic), Joseph Mawle’s Pete, inhabit an isolated petrol station/'breakers yard’ in the windswept, desolate highlands of Scotland – theirs is a life of chance (and sporadic) encounters with 'regular locals’ and passing tourists, where 'excitement’ is generated by road accidents and local thefts, all to the backdrop of an incessant, howling wind and the periodic bone-shaking passing of an articulated lorry.

As you might have guessed, Graham’s film is not exactly 'a thrill a minute’, but where (for me at least) it scores particularly well is in its claustrophobic (surprising perhaps given the vast expanses of the film’s backdrop) study of this 'community’s’ pent-up frustrations. Pirrie is outstanding here as the ‘repressed’ and dutiful adolescent ('I can’t just leave whenever I like’), the 'object of desire’ for Michael Smiley’s (in another fine performance) passing 'divorcee’, Hugh, and 'local lad’, Iain De Caestecker’s Adam, and whose relationship to Pete Graham reveals to us subtly as the pair are mistaken initially for a married couple by passing tourists, Robert and Clare (Paul Hickey and Kate Dickie), whose car has hit a stray deer (Graham adds a nice touch here as Clare gives as a gift to Shell Carson McCullers’ novel The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter). It is, of course, Pete and Shell’s relationship that is at the heart of Graham’s film – an entrapping 'love affair’ ('cold hands, warm heart’) subject to bouts of jealousy and whose solitude provides physical temptation (a 'difficult’ subject which Graham portrays in a painfully honest and totally credible way).

The film’s slow, episodic pace is depicted impressively by Yoliswa Gartig’s cinematography, which captures intimacy (characters’ long silences, embarrassed glances, stares into the distance) and expansiveness (endless roads and vast landscapes) equally well. And, although there are moments when you are willing something to happen, the film’s denouement (both powerful, but not entirely unexpected) convinces me of Shell’s merits and the promise of Graham as a new British talent. The closing sequence of the enhanced colour of the landscape (as opposed to the opening shot’s more faded hues), all to the sounds of King Creosote, also provides some hints of optimism.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 16 August 2013
Compelling realist drama set in an isolated petrol station in the Scottish Highlands. 17-year-old Shell (Chloe Pirrie) lives alone with her father (Joseph Mawle) at their garage, with little to occupy her other than caring for her sickly father, and serving the infrequent local customers. Despite a few amicable friendships with the locals she is virtually isolated from the outside, a young woman yet to find her place in the world and seemingly locked in a loving, but curious relationship with her father.

`Shell' is a small quiet film that is almost entirely constructed of tiny mannerisms and idle small talk, eschewing any hint of melodrama and instead summoning its power from its humanity and atmosphere. Both Shell and her father are clearly troubled, their faces plainly wrought with disquiet - the air is thick with the unspoken, and an unnerving melancholy runs through their lives and relationship. As a result this is an absolutely captivating, haunting watch laced with unpredictability. This simplicity is `Shell's real strength. Not a single word or second is wasted, every glance or movement carrying so much weight and intrigue it's impossible not to be drawn into this curious Scottish fable.

The cinematography is exceptional, and captures a sombre barren beauty in the Highland landscape with long static shots disrupted by the perpetual wind. This is counteracted with tightly framed imagery of the characters, allowing facial expressions and movements to communicate far more than dialogue. The tiny cast all deliver flawless performances. Pirrie in the title role is particularly adept, bringing the conflicted young woman to life with subtleties that hold a murky internal depth. That such a visceral unease is conjured with next to no music and an elusive narrative is astonishing and shapes the film into an experience bordering on the transient - both heavy and light at the same time. Even more impressive is the fact that this is the first feature from writer/director Scott Graham.

`Shell' is a hugely evocative little tale that is as economical as its title, possessing a haunting power that simultaneously lifts and dampens spirits. Imaginative, intelligent and genuinely moving.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 March 2014
It's a very disturbing story of the life of Shell. It shakes one awake that we carry the responsibility of our children's lives and bring them on course so they can explore life at all. It's hard to say that her father's death was her ticket out of her misery but it's true. This film makes you wonder what she's doing now.
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on 19 July 2014
The DVD works as should, so I can't give much of a comment on that.

The film itself is an unusual one - taking place in the Scottish Highlands, it deals with lonliness, isolation, seperation, and love. With Shell's mother having ran from Shell and her father, the two continue to run their petrol station, occasionally getting a repeat customer. As Shell is growing up though, she is evaluating her place in the world, and being in the middle of nowhere isn't always the best place for that.

It has mildly creepy themes - a very mild level of sexual assault, death, and health issues.
It has a couple of scenes that might be innapropriate for younger viewers - Shell is scene in a bath, with her breasts on screen for a moment. There is one scene of penetrative sex, but is clothed and somewhat obscured.
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I found this film difficult to watch at times, but not in a bad way, just because it made me feel uncomfortable, which I suppose is what it was partly meant to do.
When it finished I found myself having a number of varying emotions for some time after, even now (5 days later) I can still feel some of those emotions that the film influenced.
A very thought provoking and at times beautiful film, I would definitely recommend.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 11 July 2013
Cannot praise this enough, storyline, acting and photography absolutely first class. Well worth watching, go out and buy it now !
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on 13 May 2014
A wonderful & sensitive piece of film making. Beautiful photography with lots of long lingering takes of the Scottish highlands. Superb performances from Chloe Pirrie & Joseph Mawle, touching on a difficult subject. The kind of gentle, poetic & understated film making unknown to Hollywood!!
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on 11 May 2014
Chloe Pirrie gives a commanding performance in this elegaic view of all the things left unsaid on the forecourt of life.
If you've ever thought about dropping out of the rat race to run a service station in a beautiful spot in the Highlands, watch this film first.
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