Kelly + Victor (2013)
Starring Julian Morris & Antonia Campbell-Hughes.
Directed by Kieran Evans.
I am finally reviewing one of my favourite genres – independent cinema. I read an article on some of the best British indie films, and the ones that are worth watching for any indie fans. I am of course one of them, so I thought I would give this film a go. It’s 99p to rent on iTunes, and after winning a few awards (including the prestigious BAFTA) I thought it wouldn’t be a bad find. Plus, it has the rather handsome Julian Morris as lead so I didn’t need much persuading.
Well, it definitely caught me off guard. It went to places I was absolutely not expecting. I did read a brief plot beforehand, but it was way darker than I first imagined. Kelly + Victor tells the story of two young lovers (Campbell-Hughes and Morris) who meet in a Liverpool nightclub. They fall instantly into a stormy, aggressive sexual relationship that takes them both into increasingly uncomfortable terrain. To many, it is first and foremost a story of sadomasochism gone terribly wrong. However, an indie film of minimal cast and budget needs much more than two protagonists experimenting in this dangerous world.
Victor is clearly a dreamer, and through clever and beautiful cinematography we acknowledge he is a man very much in touch with his senses. During sex scenes, we are shown (what I interpreted as) camerawork to suggest Victor is a character who gains pleasure from his senses of touch, sound and sight. Through both dialogue and flashbacks, we learn he loves the outdoors and demonstrates how lost he can become in his world. I was a little puzzled how this related back to his openness towards trying S&M, but the more emphasis there was on his need for sensuality, the clearer it became.
Kelly is a lost soul. She’s underweight, has a permanent look of confusion on her face and doesn’t know what she wants. For me, this is why it was all the more surprising when it became apparent she was the one who loved S&M. The sex scenes themselves were really uncomfortable to watch. Like, seriously uncomfortable. We learn later that Kelly has escaped an abusive relationship, so was that why she liked S&M? It never became obvious to me. All I know is I wasn’t expecting it and I didn’t like it at all.
Victor is a really loveable character. He’s a down to earth Scouse, who lives a very simple, ordinary life. He is a family man, with a close relationship with both his nephew and friends. Again, he’s just very unassuming and not someone you would expect to experiment with S&M. He falls hard for Kelly, and almost falls under a spell after their first sexual encounter. It’s actually really sad. If like me, you won’t like Kelly by the end. She’s weird, reclusive and strangely intimidating. As a couple, they really didn’t make any sense. I didn’t see what it was about Kelly that Victor loved, nor did I get the need for S&M! The narrative is clever here though – it makes you watch on regardless because the audience are desperate for answers to their questions. Why is this happening, why are they experimenting, is it going to go wrong or will there be a happy ending?
It’s a strange film, but has indie written all over it. Quirky camerawork and a beautifully unique soundscape no doubt led to its success at the BAFTAS. I believe director Kieran Evans adapted this script himself from the novel written by Niall Griffiths, which made it all the more personal I imagine. The film had limited release across the UK and Ireland, but if you are a fan of indie projects, I would give this one a go. If you’ve seen Blue Valentine, you’ll draw similarities. Two doomed characters, both battling for closure on what they truly want from life. I won’t spoil the ending, but prepare to take a deep breath. Three stars!