2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Very Promising British Black Comedy,
This review is from: Black Pond [DVD] (DVD)
This 2011 film directed by Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe (with a screenplay also by Sharpe) is a quirky, not entirely successful, but ultimately promising (and even powerful) debut feature. Indeed, although Black Pond will likely be categorised as a black comedy, and it has (for me at least) some very funny moments, as the film progressed I found myself being caught up at least as much in the film's more serious side and its moments of poetic beauty (no less). The film is also notable for featuring the return to acting of Chris Langham, following his (tragic) personal story, and it is good to see him back as he (once again) turns in a brilliant performance, convincingly mixing elements of both comedy and tragedy.
At the centre of Black Pond is the dysfunctional family of Langham's Tom Thompson and wife Sophie (Amanda Hadingue), whose relationship is on the rocks, and their (absent) daughters Anna O'Grady's Katie and Helen Cripps' Tess. Into their lives one day comes Blake (played with eccentric intensity by Colin Hurley) who, happening upon Tom walking his (three-legged) dog, Boy, is invited by Tom in for a cup of tea. Thereafter, the increasingly troubled Blake acts as a catalyst for his 'adopted' family, reigniting Tom and Sophie's fractious relationship, and, via his presence at the mysterious demise of Boy, causing the family to be 'reunited' for the pet's funeral (in the garden). As you can see, Kingsley and Sharpe's film is not exactly full of narrative fireworks, but instead is an intimate, and darkly comic, study of family and one that is (for me) increasingly engaging and ultimately rather moving and profound (and told in 'flashback interviews' by the family members).
Acting-wise, both Langham and Hadingue are particularly good, he with his trademark mix (demonstrated to great effect in The Thick Of It) of facial smirks, frowns and tics, mixing the comic ('It's sheer lunacy to have a banana at this hour') and serious brilliantly, and she, equally good as the frustrated artist (poet) struggling inside the domesticated housewife. Although more peripheral characters, both O'Grady and Cripps put in promising turns as the sisters, whilst co-director (and writer) Will Sharpe also delivers a nice turn as the sister's friend Tim. One element that, for me, was not as convincing was Simon Astell's cameo role as psychiatrist (this appeared to me to be simply 'tacked on' on order to include a 'name star').
The other major plus point for this low-budget, 'debut' film is its remarkably assured and innovative look and feel. Simon Walton's cinematography is superb - mixing a semi-documentary feel with fast-moving, cleverly cut sequences, innovative (sometimes cartoon) dream interludes, plus one or two intoxicating montages making great use of the film's soundtrack, which is simply brilliant (and eclectic) and was composed by Will Sharpe (that man again), Arthur Sharpe, Nick Sutcliffe, Ralegh Long and David Hamill.
Black Pond is something of a 'slow burn' film, but, for me, became increasingly engaging throughout and by the time we had the stunningly beautiful sequence near the film's conclusion over which Sophie reads John Clare's poem 'I am', I began to suspect that I might have come across two major new British film-making talents in Messrs. Kingsley and Sharpe.