GORE IN THE STORE
A GOOD WOMAN IS HARD TO FIND ****
Directed by Abner Pastoll.
Starring Sarah Bolger, Edward Hogg, Andrew Simpson.
Thriller, U.K., 97 minutes, certificate 18.
In cinemas and On Demand October 25th
Given pride of place as closing film in FrightFest’s twentieth year was this Belfast set thriller detailing the misadventures of a struggling, single mother. The script, by Ronan Blaney, trades equally in revenge, motherhood and the effects of politically enforced austerity. Not the most obvious choice perhaps but within minutes it had proved itself as the right one. With his second feature, director Abner Pastoll proves himself as a director who stands out in the genre and actress Sarah Bolger portrays one of the most intriguing characters onscreen this year.
Finding herself a struggling single mother after the mysterious death of her husband, Sarah, finds herself embroiled against her will in the middle of a dispute involving small time criminal Tito, and gangsters Terry and Mackers. Barging into Sarah’s estate house to hide himself and the stash of drugs he has stolen Tito propositions the financially strapped widow with a cut of the sizable profits the drugs will bring their way by selling them himself. Against her will and knowing the risks all too well Sarah nonetheless decides to go along with Tito’s reckless plan, sensing that this foolhardy dealer may provide some insight to her husband’s death. Meanwhile the violently intimidating and amusingly verbose gangland boss Leo Miller, Edward Hogg, who rules over the estate with an iron fist, pool cues and whatever else comes to hand, is searching for his missing drugs.
What unfolds over the next hour and a half is a perfectly paced and increasingly bloody tale of desperation and revenge that provides a number of surprises in both its narrative and its characters. Young mother Sarah is a woman with needs, financial, physical and familial and Bolger portrays this well rounded character expertly with a mix of determination and cunning that reveals itself more and more as the film plays out. As the short fused Tito, Andrew Simpson plays a character who switches from wide boy naivete and bluff to violence and intimidation in the blink of an eye. Hogg’s usual quiet and nervy presence is displayed with a feral edge here as his fearless gangster stalks the estate. The path to a climactic reckoning is unpredictable and increasingly bloody and gruesome.
Pastoll’s direction is sure footed, maintaining its propulsive thriller pace whilst never letting the social and economic elements fade into the background. Scenes set in a supermarket showing Sarah’s struggles to feed her two children are excruciating, particularly with the presence of an infuriatingly chummy security guard. The presence of the law in this post troubles cityscape is portrayed throughout as an ineffectual hindrance who are all too often quick to judge at a moments notice whilst various elements of the community on both sides of the law draw closer together. Blaney’s script comes on like a mix of a more bloody minded Ken Loach and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher trilogy whilst the slick visuals of cinematographer Richard C Bell are perfectly matched by the pulsing electronic score composed by Matthew Pusti.
A Good Woman Is Hard to Find confirms Pastoll as a director ideally suited to bloody thriller territory and more. His sense of pace and finding tension as well as staging exciting set pieces on a low budget proves this and more and hopefully sets the next stage of his career up in a bigger playing field. And in a time where genre heroines are becoming more and more interesting Bolger’s heroine shines bright with her sympathetic and surprising portrayal and ingenious way of concealing a handgun.
Reviewed in London at the Arrow Video FrightFest by Iain MacLeod