Atmospheric and agonizing,
The War Zone will stay with you for weeks afterwards. Actor Roths
directorial début is dramatically devastating although, inevitably, his
move behind camera draws comparisons between him and his contemporary Gary
Oldman. This film is not the Nil By Mouth gritty kick in the teeth.
Its more of a textured rural nightmare.
A 2point2 kids family move from London to
complete isolation on the Devonshire coast. Father Winstone is both
affectionate and loving to heavily pregnant wife Swinton and their relaxed
contentment offsets the teen restlessness of son Cunliffe and daughter Belmont.
Away from the freneticism of London, Freddie starts picking up perturbing
sexual tension between his father and sister and what starts as speculation and
empty accusation becomes an obsession with exposing the horrible truth; that
dad has been abusing his sister.
Roth handles Alexander Stuarts very
controversial novel with admirable skill. The whole film is permeated with
stunning imagery, with the countryside and the sea becoming dark characters in
their own right. Black cliffs falling sheer into tumultuous waves are an apt
metaphor for the family on the verge of a slippery slope.
More impressive is that Roth allows his
material to breathe. Long silences in family scenes and poignant establishing
shots display a real directorial flair. The casting is also remarkable
newcomer Cunliffe is very impressive and Belmont gives her first ever
performance having just been discovered by Roth whilst shopping on Portabello
Far from being an easy ride, Roth has cut his
teeth on the toughest stuff and handles the material with sensitivity and
insight. What results is a painfully believable portrayal of abuse which leaves
you sick to your stomach and faint of heart. But since when has child abuse
been an issue to take lightly?