A political yarn – sometimes creepy, sometimes daft – in the Hitchcockian vein, TV dramatist-playwright Stephen Poliakoff’s first film for cinema in a decade is a claustrophobic drama relating to appeasement and the aristocracy in 1939. Poliakoff channels a high-level conspiracy, based on fact, through one high-living family, of which Bill Nighy’s Alexander is the calm, unreadable patriarch and Romola Garai’s Anne is the eldest but adopted sibling.
Poliakoff places a game Garai in the paranoid centre of the action: a bit like Margaret Lockwood in ‘The Lady Vanishes’ or Cary Grant in ‘North by Northwest’, she appears in every scene bar a modern-day framing device that sadly dilutes some of the film’s more opaque elements. As Anne stumbles upon some dastardly goings-on, we see everything through her eyes so that you wonder whether she’s a victim or just untrustworthy. Poliakoff’s heightened dialogue and his actors’ arch delivery are an acquired taste, but somehow they mostly suit the sense of a nightmare enveloping Anne. If only the plotting were more convincing and the prologue and epilogue less distracting.
Read our interview with Poliakoff here