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The actor Karen Gillan makes her writer-director debut with a downbeat, interesting-but-flawed drama set in her hometown of Inverness, and shot on a tiny budget – the kind of money they probably spent on almond milk lattes making the Avengers blockbusters in which she played cyborg Nebula.
Her character here is familiar from countless millennial indie movies: a funny, smart twentysomething who can’t pull her life together, boozing too much, sleeping with the wrong guys, waking up still wearing her mascara. But a gravitational downwards pull tugs at the film, though I wasn’t convinced it has the emotional depth for the dark places Gillan wants to take it.
As well as writing and directing, she plays underachieving 24-year-old Liusaidh (pronounced “Lucy”), who lives with her parents and works behind the cheese and ham counter at the local supermarket. The film begins with a Trainspotting-ish drunken rant by Liusaidh about the shitness of Inverness; later she tells a guy that she drinks to make her job bearable. “You can’t really conjure up the energy to resent it through a hangover.”
But Gillan’s film isn’t really about disaffection or despair. Liusaidh’s nihilism is driven by grief after the suicide of her best friend, Alistair (sensitively played by Matthew Beard).
In flashbacks, we watch Liusaidh with thoughtful, introverted Alistair, a gay man in a hopeless relationship with an evangelical Christian. Back to the present, all unprocessed guilt and anger, she gets pissed and shags randoms in pub toilets. Towards the end there is a scene of sexual violence that Gillan doesn’t give enough space to explore, adding to the film’s undernourished, unfinished feel.
Elsewhere, there’s some fun banter between Liusaidh and a friend (Rachel Jackson), and these scenes have a relaxed and unselfconscious truthfulness to them. I can’t help thinking Gillan’s superpower as a writer and performer might actually be comedy. Still, always a compelling screen presence, she’s now a film-maker to watch.
• The Party’s Just Beginning is released in the UK on 1 December.
Source: The Guardian
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