KALEIDOSCOPE **** UK 2016 Dir: Rupert Jones. 100 mins
Toby Jones (brother of writer-director Rupert) is typically great as a lonely ex-con living in thrall to his domineering mother (a powerful off-camera presence for the first half of the film). He meets up with chatty Abby (Sinead Matthews) after they talked online – she chose him because he looked like a “pushover” and slotted into the category of men who are looking to date their mothers. His flat is full of holdovers from his childhood, including the kaleidoscope of the title, and the out-of-time mise-en-scene mirrors the fractured mind space of this repressed, troubled man. The non-linear narrative meshes audio and visual flashbacks as we come to realise the unstable protagonist has committed a terrible act. Rarely leaving the dehumanising confinement of Jones’ dated apartment block (complete with ugly spiral staircase and faded décor), KALEIDOSCOPE traps the audience with this alternatively pitiful and creepy character while juxtaposing the banal with the horrific when Mum turns up to intrusively cook his favourite fry up at night. Played by Anne Reid with a disarming combination of mumsy comfort and uncomfortable clinginess, she is another addition to the pantheon of horror’s memorable matriarchs. A sequence in which she interrogates her son after he has evaded police questions is among the most intense in a movie with a penchant for squirm-inducing dialogue scenes. Similarly, the moment where the mentally declining Jones almost slips into bed with his mum while seemingly initiating a sexual encounter with Abby queasily captures his loosening grip on reality. Violence is alluded to, but rarely shown and Jones’ controlled performance captures a haunting portrait of a lonely man forgotten by the world slowly losing control as evidence seems to mount against him. There are echoes of other very British studies of white, repressed middle-aged men giving in to violent impulses (10 RILLINGTON PLACE, POSSUM) alongside parallels to recent cinematic breakdowns like THE MACHINIST. Suspense gives way to unerring sadness via an increasingly unsettling build-up and a fashionable twist.
Review by Steven West