Care is a splendid new film by director Amanda Boyle starring Gina McKee. The film follows Natalie (McKee), a district nurse, looking after an infirmed old lady called Elsie (Margaret Jackman), who lives in a tiny flat on the Byker Grove estate in Newcastle.
This film's power lies in its subtlety. Nothing is underlined, everything suggested or hinted at. Natalie seems trapped, contained by the routines of her life. Perhaps more so than Elsie, who is sat constantly in her chair watching TV with the sound down. But Elsie, we deduce, is content with her lot, or at least resigned to it. There is the suggestion that Natalie might have obsessive-compulsive tendencies, but thankfully these are never clearly underlined. Thus preserving the suspense.
Natalie has many unresolved issues in her life, and we watch as things start to unravel. Her husband is never there, and we see her alone at home. No time for or interest in a relationship that seems redundant. Even the receipt of a birthday bunch of flowers obviously means nothing. This unhappiness is echoed in the muted light, colours and bland landscapes through which she passes.
Then we meet Sammy (Aimee Kelly), a seemingly streetwise teen from next door. Again, nothing is overstated. Natalie is struck by this truculent but self possessed young woman. She makes an impression. Why? So many possible answers are presented, that its best left to the viewer to make their own conclusions.
As the story unfolds, we see our initial impressions of the characters questioned in many ways. And the finale provides, rather than a roundup conclusion, more questions.
Throughout the story, Natalie's internal tensions are heightened by the excellent soundtrack by composer David Julyan (Memento and Eden Lake). These soundscapes are perfectly woven into the drama and every corner of the dark interiors. The disquiet of the characters is implied visually too, through the parred down sets and rained upon exteriors which form the setting of Care. This brings me to another of this film's qualities: its intense atmosphere. This is brilliantly realised and maintained throughout, as all the components of this film are seamlessly merged, creating a greater whole.
Although fairly short, this film successfully condenses vast amounts of relevant details into its characters. We therefore not only identify with each as they play out their stories, but also acquire an understanding of their pasts. The casting of this work is spot on. And all the characters are totally believable.
The excellent script by Chloe Moss perfectly complements Gina McKee's subtle characterisation; a measured and multifaceted performance that is of course the centrepiece of this film (of which McKee is also Associate Producer). Jackman and Kelly give excellent performances. Amid the outward signs of Natalie's inner turmoil, there's even humour. Elsie's first words, that I won't spoil for you.
An excellent film and a credit to all involved.
(c) G Hall - Writer for Female Arts 2012
Note: Care is a TV movie presented by Sky Arts and Playhouse, which was screened at Chapter, Cardiff - reviewed Friday 6th July 2012
Starring Gina McKee, Margaret Jackman, Aimee Kelly and Kevin Wathen
Written by Chloe Moss
Directed by Amanda Boyle
Produced by Kate Crowther
See imdb for full cast and credits http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2340331/