From the DVD sleeve of ‘Black Pond’ (it shot in and out of cinemas too quickly for me to catch it), this looked like a murder mystery – a number of glum people standing around a corpse in a binbag. Nothing quite prepared me for the film, shot on a budget that wouldn’t constitute the ad spend for a Hollywood movie in even its smallest territory. It’s a haunting, funny and finally moving gem that suggests a great future for its directors Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe (the latter also acting). What’s all the more remarkable is that they’re in their mid-twenties.
The only ‘name’ talent I recognised here is ‘The Thick Of It’s Chris Langham, superbly cast as the hopelessly optimistic, put-upon patriarch of the Thompson family, who find themselves at the centre of a tabloid scandal after the lost and lonely stranger who befriends them dies at their house. Told in flashback, we realise that the intrusion into their life has catalysed a marriage that was collapsing and being endlessly shored up without anyone ever broaching the subject. Tom Thompson sums up the painful banality of their existence by describing a dream he had ‘about ham sandwiches and broadband’.
This is an intensely English middle-class comedy of incidental pleasures and drily witty subtleties, as sharply paced and quirky as Richard Oyoade’s ‘Submarine’, but somehow much more memorable. As the family comes unstitched and Langham remains determined not to recognise the fact, we see its effect on his children, their best friend and the sham-psychiatrist the friend hires, who spills the beans to the press.
One of the writer/directors’ smartest moves is to leave certain questions unanswered; did the stranger kill the Thompsons’ dog? Why did he take a dump on their lawn? How exactly did the family cope in the aftermath, here thrown away almost as an afterthought? Humans are ultimately unknowable, complex beings, a fact the film acknowledges in examining their behaviour. Check out the extra content – just a short piece, but it knocks the usual mainstream B-roll rubbish out of the park, adding to the film’s content when Langham’s wife bitterly describes her new life.
Confident, clever and genuinely original, it’s well worth checking out and bodes well for the futures of all involved. Although the UK film industry has a habit of killing its most talented stars.