A comedy wrapped around a tragedy. It starts as a celebration and ends with blood on the floor.
Sally Potter’s latest film takes place entirely in one house and plays out in real time, focusing on a small gathering of people who have come together to celebrate politician Janet’s (Kristin Scott Thomas) appointment as the new ‘Shadow Health Minister’. The ensemble cast is made up of Janet’s husband Bill (Timothy Spall), a bickering couple (Patricia Clarkson and Bruno Ganz), a banker (Cillian Murphy) and a lesbian couple (Emily Mortimer and Cherry Jones), and you’d be forgiven for wondering why these people are in each other’s company, such is the air of tension and disdain that colours every interaction. Over the course of the brisk 70 minute runtime, these characters exchange barbs, heightened when long hidden secrets come to the fore after Bill makes a surprising revelation.
The film is smartly written with sharp dialogue and a plot that unfolds swiftly with surprises parcelled out at all the right moments and it’s very well cast. The terrific ensemble are all great, with Patricia Clarkson excelling in particular, which is just as well as this is not a group of likeable people (Bruno Ganz’s character perhaps the exception)! The format and premise of the film is very much like a play (in fact I’d be surprised if this wasn’t at least considered) with the action limited to 3/4 rooms and the garden, and Potter creates tension by using tools such as an important character that is often talked about but never seen, and an early shot of a gun that we of course then expect to come back into play at some stage. It’s shot in black and white which I found to be an effective choice for the material, giving it a retro, low budget kind of feel.
‘The Party’ is a classic example of a film that would probably have worked better as a play, where the limitations of the format don’t feel quite as glaring as they do in this film. That being said, I enjoyed the performances from the cast and at a pacey 70 minute runtime, this was a fun watch.
Directed By: Sally Potter
Starring: Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy, Kristin Scott Thomas, Cherry Jones, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson and Bruno Ganz