The Receptionist review – an intimate voyage into London’s underworld | Film

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First-time feature director Jenny Lu directs this intensely felt personal drama about the immigrant experience in the UK and the accompanying state of invisibility – part survival strategy, part byproduct of prejudice and hypocrisy.

Tina, played by Teresa Daley, is a young Taiwanese arts graduate living with her British boyfriend in London, frantically sending out CVs, getting no job offers and desperately short on cash. Then she gets word that someone needs a “receptionist”, but not at the kind of hipster media company she once yearned for. Tina has to be the “receptionist” for a brothel run out of a rented suburban semi by the motherly Lily (Sophie Gopsill), which employs two cynical yet melancholy sex workers (played by Amanda Fan and Chen Shiang-chyi, the latter a veteran of movies by Edward Yang and Tsai Ming-liang).

A setup like this needs a “receptionist” as a kind of psychological buffer between the women and their grisly clientele: someone their age to professionalise and normalise the transaction and reduce the risk of disorder and violence. Bizarrely, Tina finds she is not unlike a barrister’s clerk, looking after the women’s interests, but she must face menace from the gruesome customers and the gangster-parasites showing up and wanting their cut.

It is, literally, a dark film: Lu has gone for gloomy, semi-lit interiors in this world of furtive shame and brings off a bold contrast with the bright daylight of exterior locations. There is scope for debate as to whether the ending she imagines is pessimistic or not. A valuable, intelligent debut.

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Source: The Guardian
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