Retaliation review – Orlando Bloom gives it his all in lacerating sexual-abuse drama | Film

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Orlando Bloom has often looked perfectly happy with a Hollywood career, starring in movies as opposed to necessarily acting in them. But he outdoes himself in this British indie drama playing a man traumatised by childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest. There’s a kind of blunt brute force to his performance – and he looks almost unrecognisable, as if he’s using certain muscles in his face for the first time.

The film is a horror story: a disturbing, hard-to-watch ordeal with a lacerating script by Geoff Thompson, a sexual-abuse survivor who has written courageously about his own experience. Bloom is Malcolm, known to everyone as Malky, a nickname that doesn’t remotely suit him. He swaggers about full of rage, flying into a temper if anyone so much as looks at him funny. Malcolm works in the macho world of demolition, stripping old churches of fixtures and fittings before the bulldozers move in. Just in case you miss the point, his mum says over tea: “There’s a lot of churches. You won’t be able to knock them all down.” There’s a good deal of this sort of heavy symbolism, giving the whole thing an overcooked, oppressive feel.

Malcolm’s shame and fear of intimacy emerge in some unflinchingly grim scenes. Sex with his on-off barmaid girlfriend (Janet Montgomery) is cold and horrible. At home, in secret, Malcolm abuses himself, staring into the mirror while he rapes himself with a wooden truncheon – it’s a shocking moment, and it will be too much for some.

One day, having a pint in his local, Malcolm spots the paedophile priest (James Smillie) who raped him – he’s been moved back to the parish. The confrontation and narrative resolution that follow feel a bit hastily sketched-out. But there are lines here that land like a punch: “I was 12. When I woke up the next day I was 100.”

Retaliation is released on 26 March on digital platforms.

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Source: The Guardian
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