Writers: Harry Wootliff and Molly Davies
Director: Harry Wootliff
For tormented council worker Kate, life is a struggle as she feels under siege from social media posts of happy couples and her mother’s insistence that she needs a boyfriend. Living partially in her fantasies, meeting Blond changes everything, but following a passionate first encounter that is everything she’d hoped for, Blond proves elusive and as Kate leans in to the idea of life as a couple, the reality is crushing.
Harry Wootliff and Molly Davies’ film, appearing in the London Film Festival’s Official Competition, creates a strong female-centric narrative and uses it to explore the pressure to hold down a stable but soul-destroying job while wanting the kind of carefree lifestyle fed through Instagram. The gap between where Kate is and where she longs to be is where this film takes place, an almost insurmountable cavern which creates a brooding powerlessness and frustration that only makes her more unhappy.
The fragmented relationship she develops with Blond doesn’t always feel credible, particularly an unusual meet-cute in the benefits office where she deals with his case and after work have al fresco sex in the car park. Later, as he leaves her waiting for his unpredictable appearances, his behaviour is often thoughtless and self-involved, sometimes actually cruel, yet she choses to go back for more even after a particularly savage encounter.
This is never fully explained and there are large gaps in the narrative that make character motivation sometimes hard to follow as days or even weeks pass in seconds. And while Blond offers a taste of that freedom she craves, his own lack of depth makes it difficult for the audience to understand her attraction to him and the delusion that she can refashion some casual sex into a relationship.
Much is left to Ruth Wilson to create depth and roundedness in Kate’s make-up, exploring the deep disaffection and depression that plagued her character long before she met Blond. Despite a poor record of attendance and a distraction at work, Wilson makes Kate sympathetic, even sweet, but unable to take control of her life in any meaningful way that will allow her to progress sensibly towards her goals.
Instead, Kate throws her emotions into what should have been a chance encounter with a client, with Wilson finding considerable reserves of pain and ache in the lonely council worker. It is a complex and engaging performance that charts a process of complete self-destruction with the everyday knock-backs of rejection and unsympathetic bosses hitting her harder than most, and with little resilience, Kate is unable to pick herself back up.
Tom Burke does what he can with the thinly constructed scoundrel Blond, a rather generic concoction of cliched male traits including not wanting to be tied down and placing his own ego above anyone. If there was any more in this role, Burke would have found it so brings as much charisma as he can to a fairly thankless part.
It’s a shame that Wootliff and Davies didn’t spend more time fleshing-out the surrounding characters including an all but wasted Hayley Squires who, like Burke, is capable of so much more than the tough-love best friend. True Things needs a stronger frame, but it is Wilson’s film and she really makes the most of it.
True Things is screening at the London Film Festival.