To Have & to Hold
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Time Out saysHillcoat's belated follow up to his ferocious prison drama, Ghosts...of the Civil Dead, addresses similar themes of isolation and entrapment, but in a more intimate, emotional context. Jack (Karyo) and Kate (Griffiths) are ill-fated lovers in a jungle town in Papua, New Guinea, obsessed not with one another but with a projected image of a lost/perfect partner. When the beams cross, fantasy and reality blur, and the picture gets very messy indeed. Two years ago, Jack's wife Rose drowned under suspicious circumstances. Now he's back with his new Australian girlfriend, novelist Kate, whose naive romantic fantasy finds expression in her book, 'Jungle of Love: A Tropical Romance'. But Jack is soon sucked down into the whirlpool of memory, repeatedly viewing old home videos of Rose, and persuading Kate to wear his late wife's red dress. A cycle of drinking, victimisation and violent jealousy repeats itself, as Kate's dream turns into a sanity- and life-threatening nightmare. Thematically consistent and visually arresting, this ambitious modern melodrama works best when Karyo and Griffiths' performances infuse the slightly schematic screenplay with a raw emotional intensity. And yet for all its relentless fatalism, visual richness and lush, enveloping score (the soundtrack also features Scott Walker covering Dylan) it never quite reaches fever pitch.