Back Roads review – sombre yet camp family incest drama | Film

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Based on a 1999 novel by Tawni O’Dell (who takes a co-screenwriting credit), it would seem this family melodrama has been kicking around since since at least 2011, when, according to reports, it was to be directed by Adrian Lyne (who takes the other screenwriting credit). The project’s age is no surprise given the lurid, faintly prurient, and dated – in relation to current thinking about abuse – story that ends up revealing incest running rife through a family like an infestation of nettles, poisoning relationships between both parents and siblings. By the end, it’s not clear who was lying about what or even who was abusing whom, but that probably matters less than the general atmosphere of dour misery and fetid desire.

Epicene star Alex Pettyfer takes the lead role and makes a fair fist of directing the film. Back Roads centres on the traumas of his character, Harley. When he was still just a teen himself, Harley was compelled to take over caring for his three younger sisters after their mother (Juliette Lewis) was sent to prison for murdering their abusive father. In the film’s present, eldest sister Amber (Nicola Peltz, mesmeric) is making bad life choices about men and wearing lingerie as outerwear, while middle sister Misty (Chiara Aurelia, also excellent) gets ever more peculiar and brooding. (The youngest, played by Hala Finley, seems blessedly average.) Desperate for affection and respite, Harley grows attracted to an older neighbour (Jennifer Morrison) who shares an interest in (cliche alert) impressionist painting. Soon, the two are making out in very Adrian Lyne-esque, artfully shot humping scenes, which lend the film even more of a retro vibe, recalling all those erotic thrillers of the 1990s. The performances are sturdy, even so, and the whole has a sombre determination that makes it likable and rather camp.

Source: The Guardian
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