Monday 23 November 2020

A Patch of Fog - 2015 film review

A Patch of Fog is an interesting film made in Northern Ireland five years ago, directed by Michael Lennox. The script was written by John Cairns and Michael McCartney and concerns an author called Sandy Duffy, who made his name with his one and only novel, A Patch of Fog, 25 years ago. Fuffy (Conleth Hill) has failed to follow up his breakthrough, but lives well and is a lecturer who is also a familiar face on television. He works alongside his girlfriend, played by Lara Pulver.

From the start, however, we know that all is not well with Sandy. He's a compulsive shoplifter, and the psychological problems that lie behind his behaviour eventually become clear. Unfortunately for him, he's spotted, and filmed, by a security guard called Robert (Stephen Graham). Sandy begs Robert not to report his crime, and Robert eventually agrees. But he wants something in return. Not money, but friendship.

Bit by bit, Robert insinuates himself into Sandy's life. Graham captures his character's neediness and inadequacy as well as his creepiness. One's instinct is to sympathise with Sandy, but he is such an unlikeable character that it's tempting to think that the and Robert deserve each other. Each time Sandy thinks he's made good his escape from Robert's  clutches, he is swiftly disabused. The stakes become higher, the tension mounts.

For a low-budget film, this is pretty gripping. That's due mainly to the excellence of the lead actors, but the script has its moments (there is one especially clever twist when Sandy makes ingenious use of a compromising video tape) and the film doesn't outstay its welcome. I've often thought that the experience of writing a hugely successful first book and then being unable to follow it up with anything as good must be very depressing. This film offers a fresh, if downbeat take on that premise. Well worth watching.

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