Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

UK 2012
Directed by
Scott Graham
90 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


No-one does miserabilism like the British and writer/director Scott Graham’s feature debut is a polished example of the style in full flight, a portrait of the remarkable amidst the unremarkable in this story of Shell (Chloe Pirrie) a reticent 17 year-old living with her withdrawn and epileptic Dad (Joseph Mawle) at a wayside petrol station (was a pun intended?) in the remoteness of the Scottish Highlands. 

Unsurprisingly, isolation and alienation are at the heart of the film, not just for Shell (yes, like the petrol) and her father but for the few people that pass through including a vulnerable middle-aged divorcee (Michael Smiley) and a lonely local young guy (Iain De Caestecker). Even a relatively upbeat tourist couple (Kate Dickie and Paul Thomas Hickey) manage to hit a deer and write-off their car. Shell gives the wife some slabs of the deer that her Dad has butchered and the wife gives Shell a copy of Carson McCullers’ “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter”. Sheesh, thanks!

Although Graham tends to overplay his hand with the unrelieved glumness he builds a sense of claustrophobic foreboding with the accumulation of isolated incidents whilst never losing sight of the tenderness in the quiet young woman’s relationship with the world. When the climactic turning point arrives, despite its sensationalist potential, it is handled with convincing poignancy. Only in the final resolution does Graham second guess the low key treatment which made the film so effective until that point.

Pirrie is captivating in the lead and the fact that she is somewhat too old for the part (she was 25 at the time) is of no importance. In many ways Shell is old beyond her years and we might almost be watching her story in flashback.  Although not one to see if you’re in a frisky mood Shell is a worthy addition to the sizeable catalogue of fine British realist films.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst