The Darkest Universe. Film review by Wendy French.




Here’s a new film not to be missed from the BAFTA nominated directors of ‘Black Pond,’ Will Sharpe and Tom Kingsley.

The film was first shown at the beginning of May 2016 at PictureHouse Central, Piccadilly as part of the London Comedy Film Festival, which promoted the film as being: filled with wit, melancholy and surreal breath-taking images.  It’s one of the boldest and most beautiful British films in years.

The Darkest Universe is an innovative, surprising and suspenseful film, written by Tiani Ghosh and Will Sharpe.  Will Sharpe also directed and edited the film, and starred as Zac Pratt, a city trader whose sister Alice goes missing.  As Alice, Tiani Ghosh gave an outstanding and understated performance of a young girl who finds relationships and communication difficult.  She just ‘doesn’t get’ certain situations whether it’s with her brother, strangers or lover.  When their mother was dying Zac promised his mother that they (Alice and Will) would look after one another.  And he intends to keep that promise.

The audience is drawn into the story from the beginning although at times it’s almost painful.  This is where the film’s writing and direction are so clever: you never want to turn away.  You are there whether it’s in the canal tunnel, in the garden with the lichen covered statue suggesting decay or the bathroom where Alice’s boyfriend’s father (played by Chris Langham) is running a bath, his thoughts adding a pathos to the story.  This scene is particularly cleverly photographed: the missing tiles from the bathroom wall could be seen as symbolic of the missing young couple.

The title suggests suspense and the opening scene lives up to this.  Although completely different in content the film reminded me of the recently released film, ‘Victoria’ which was filmed over one long period, partly scripted and partly improvised.  ‘ Darkest Universe’ was filmed in chunks over three years, but each scene has a fresh take on a situation we would all dread – that of a loved one going missing without a trace.  It is hard to know which scenes were improvised for the freshness of the writing challenges the premise that scripts can kill natural interactions.

The production takes place mainly on a narrow boat, The Margaret Rose moored on the Grand Union canal at King’s Cross and an Elizabethan house in Cranbrook, Kent.  The captivating photography throughout the film includes tranquil and rural scenes which remind us of the calm beauty of nature against the perils of everyday living.

The music – often discordant but always complementary – plays a vital part in the film’s success and the supporting roles are very strong especially Chris Langham as the missing Toby’s father and Raph Shirley as Charlie.

Watch out for this film.  I hope Picture House screens show this film around the capital and also hope we hear more from the writers and actors in the near future.

Wendy French © 2016.

Cinema enthusiast and member of The Ritzy, Brixton.