A man watches a pile of dead livestock burn in a fire. It comes after the last cow is killed on what is now an empty farm. It's a powerful and a bit of an arresting image. The opening of this film references a crisis in the UK back in 2001. An outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease severely affected British agriculture back then. This information isn't conveyed verbally within the film. I'm aware of it only because of press notes I read. Unless there are context clues that I missed, this UK crisis could be overlooked by anyone watching this movie.
Directors and co-writers Joseph Bull and Luke Seomore make their film more about a man who is presumably the son of a farmer affected by the crisis. The man's father is deceased, but he talks about his deceased father in a manner that feels like he's okay and things are fine, but things aren't. His brief time in a dance club indicates that and a call from his brother supremely indicates problems in the man's past and with his family.
Barry Ward (Jimmy's Hall) stars as Adam, a man who looks like he might be in his mid to late 30's. He gets a call from his brother Aiden who tells him that if he doesn't come visit in order to see the birth of Aiden's new baby in two weeks, then Adam should never come visit ever again. His brother sounds frustrated and upset, and the call is definitely meant to be an ultimatum, so Adam sets out on a road trip.
The film follows Adam on this road trip. He doesn't go directly to see his brother and the baby. He stops along the way at various places. He sees ex-girlfriends and childhood friends, or even family-friends with whom he tries to reconnect, reminisce or use to help find work. He doesn't have a car and presumably steady employment, so he needs all the help he can get.
At times, it just seems like he's wandering aimlessly, crashing with whomever he can, or sometimes just passing out in a park or someplace outside. He keeps having flashbacks, flashbacks to a gun-shot, startling him to an incident in the woods, probably not too far from his father's farm. Bull and Seomore follow Adam in these flashbacks, often with the camera behind him in slow-motion, creeping delicately.
And that's the general feeling of this film. It's delicately creeping around. Usually, it's Adam by himself, making tenuous connections but whatever encounters with people or even animals are only brief. It's only until he finally makes it to his family, his blood relations, does the film suggest any kind of permanence for Adam.
There's a hint that Adam's attempts at creating his own blood relations or have his own children failed. One time seemed through adoption, but for some unnamed reason that failed. Another time ended possibly through abortion. Yet, this is all implied. Nothing about Adam's back-story is directly conveyed. We pick up scraps of this man's life, but that's it.
Beside his aimless wandering, Adam has two encounters that seem aggressively weird. Jimmy Akingbola plays Debo, a man who almost appears to run a religious hostel. Hayley Squires plays Hayley, an ex-girlfriend who takes Adam to a bathhouse or a steam room where they engage in a kind of prostitution. It's an odd place for a film that starts with foot-and-mouth disease to go, but here it is.
Three Stars out of Five.
Rated 15 in UK.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 25 mins.
Available on DVD/VOD on Aug. 18.