The Party’s Just Beginning Karen Gillan, Glasgow Film Festival review by Pat Byrne
The Party’s Just Beginning
Director: Karen Gillan
Starring: Karen Gillan, Matthew Beard,Lee Pace, Rachel JacksonJamie Quinn, Siobhan Redmond and Paul Higgins, ,
Karen Gillan is the lead actor and director of ‘The Party’s Just Beginning’ set in her home town of Inverness. Her desire to make her debut film came about in response to the extremely high suicide rate among young men in the Scottish Highlands.
The genre is described as comedy/drama but I was hard pushed to find a laugh in what is for the main part a bleak and harrowing film. Karen does a good job playing the part of the withdrawn, vulnerable Lucy, a young woman who works at the cheese counter in a supermarket. Traumatised by the suicide of her transgeder friend Matthew (played by Matthew Beard), after he faced rejection from his gay churchgoing boyfriend and the death of his drug addicted dad, Lucy deals with her grief with alcohol, drugs and promiscuity.
You fear for her as she picks up random men for sex – encouters which seem meaningless to her as she strides home afterwards stuffing her face with chips.
The film shows with flash backs with Karen visiting the local suicide spot, a bridge over a railway, where if the fall doesn’t finish you off, a train will. One of the men she takes up with shows some interest in her but this goes nowhere, not even to the extent that they know each others’ names. This stranger (played by Lee Pace) also harbours thoughts of suicide and we see the suicide spot revisited.
Lucy hallucinates about various events and I got bit lost at times with what was real and what was not. Including her witnessing a neighbour hanging himself. Scenes with her walking home at the side of a motorway and then climbing through a fence to the lonely path which leads to the the railway bridge are powerful and evocative but perhaps repeated just once or twice too often.
Her home life is pretty grim with her parents showing little interest in their daughter and providing no emotional support. Her dad never takes his eyes off the television and her shallow mum effectively shuts Lucy out of her life as she continuously listens to music with her earplugs in.
One quirky element of the story involves a telephone relationship whih develops between Lucy and an elderly, suicidal man, who believes he is contacting a help-line when he gets through to the landline in her home. This aspect of the movie shows a more engaged side to the troubled girl as she shares her own darkest experiencs with a stranger. However, when her father listens in and hears his daughter reveal that she was raped by three men, the outcome, suggesting that her parents are actually confronting this issue and prepared to recognise that their daughter is in some trouble feels slightly contrived.
The scenes with Lucy’s gay friend are poignant and emotional and there are some funny lines when she is with her gallus girlfriend but the film tries to address so many issues it’s quite challenging to follow. This could have been Gillan’s intention, reflecting the turmoil in Lucy’s mind. She deserves praise for writing and directing the film as well as performing in the starring role – no mean feat. I think some of the supporting characters could have been further developed and have less repetition – maybe drop one or even two of the sexual encounters. It’s not laced with laughs nor a film designed to encourage tourism but indisputably Gillan has achieved her goal in presenting a powerful view of the bleak side of Inverness.
Pat Byrne, February, 2018
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