“ Genre: Drama / Theatrical Release: 2005 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Alison Murray / Actors: Ellen Page, Natasha Wightman, Jim Sturgess, Eric Thal, Beatrice Brown ... / DVD released 2008-06-16 at Dogwoof Films / Features of the DVD: Dolby, PAL „
* Prices may differ from that shown
I absolutely hated this film. It has to be one of the most disturbing films I have ever had the misfortune to watch.
I did watch it all the way through, only so that I could give a fair review, but it lost me completely at the point where they left a child to bleed to death.
The film is in my opinion about a young girl named Sherry (Bat), who thinks she knows so much better than her mother and has been given a bit to much freedom. So, she runs away and gets taken in by a sect who call themselves S.P.A.R.K. Street People Armed with Radical Knowledge, supposedly a great group of people who search through dumpsters for leftover, unwanted food to feed the homeless and who travel with a "doctor" who helps drug addicts come off heroine, with her methidone programme. They do all this supposed "good work" when they aren't bottling wine at their commune in France, during the harvesting season. This radical knowledge supposedly teaches them how to live better more knowledgable lives, but you see little of this so called radical knowledge, as Sherry gets dragged along with them on the way to France, she witnesses the death of a young boy called "Manson", who is left to bleed to death after an accident, which ensues in Mad Ax performing a bizarre kind of dance routine with his lifeless body? Then on to a open air festival of whatever where they have some weird drunken crazed rave to honour his death and Sherry is almost raped by "Tiger" after being given drugs and booze.
Her mother then comes to find her in France and just happens to bump into her daughter at the side of the road, as she is leaving the group, where eventually they argue and yet another bizarre dance ensues, between Sherry and her mother, before Sherry runs away again, back to the commune, closely followed by her mother.
At the commune they go through more bizarre rituals led by the leader Harry, head shaving, truth meetings, punishments like eating raw chilli's and the pit. They are put to work labouring all day harvesting grapes from the vines to make their wine and sleeping in hammocks at night.
As the film goes on you begin to discover that Harry is also a perverted peadophile, who takes advantage of the young girls who have been taken in by his lies, when he rapes them. Sherry's mother gets taken in by Harry's "charms" and commits herself to the commune, just as Sherry is realising what a bad situation they are both in and then in Sherry's case Harry exposes her as being "selfish" and "self centred" after he has raped her and blames her for making him do it, in front of the group. One last truth meeting leads to Sherry being put in the pit (an old well shaft) for a second time along with Nancy, for plotting to escape the commune and Harry pee's on them while they are at the bottom of the pit (which was horribly graphic). Nancy becomes terrified and has an asthma attack at the bottom of the pit and dies, while Sherry tries to resusitate her and screams for the others to come and help her.
This is the final atrocity of the movie and Sherry makes her bid for freedom, without her mother who has been brainwashed beyond redemption.
So, now the young Sherry is left homeless, without a mother and traumatised by her ordeal and again we have another bizarre dance routine between Sherry and Mad Ax.
What all the bizarre artsy dancing was about I'll never know, but it did not fit in with the rest of the film and made it all the more sickening to watch during "Mansons" death scene, as his rather floppy supposed lifeless body is hauled around by crazy Max. It was also somewhat ridiculous and unrealstic, as the boys body would have been stiff by this point in reality! It all amounted to a totally uncalled for and meaningless use of artistic dance, which made the movie even worse than it already was.
I give it a 2 star only because I cannot deny that it is acted brilliantly by Ellen Page (Sherry) and Eric Thal (Harry), Eric particularly gave me the creeps in his role and came across as a thoroughly believable and very frightening sect leader. There were some notable performances by other cast members like Maxwell McCabe-Lokos (Mad Ax) also, so for that reason alone it gets a 2 star.
I really do not know why people write films like this and I do not understand what it gives to the viewer other than a bad taste in the mouth. I thoroughly wish I hadn't watched it at all and I will never watch it again. I will also be sure never to watch anything that has been written by Alison Murray ever again!
I do not recommend this movie to anyone!
The reason I have only given this film 3 stars is that although it managed to engage and capture me for its entire duration, it was at times, hard to understand and follow, for me at least. If anyone has ever seen the TV series The Tribe (the post-apocalyptic drama as opposed to the Bruce Parry series), this reminds me sort of, of that. It also reminds me a lot of shows I have seen on freeganism and cults, just in a movie format. It is dark, with dark themes and scenes, ioncluding drug and methadone use, death (including of a child), violence, sexual advantage being taken of a child, mind games and subversive psychological tactics. Although some of it is hard to believe at first, having read a lot about people who get taken into cults, blood is not always thicker than water as the mother ends up demonstrating in this story, and this part of the film is not so far removed from the truth which sits rather uncomfortably with me. And for once, I liked the semi-ambiguity of the ending, where although you can see what is happening, you're curious to know what else happens and if it all works out ok; as nothing has been simple for these characters so far...