Set in and around Glasgow and Edinburgh in the 1950s, writer/director Mackenzie's impressive film from a novel by the Scottish Beat writer Alexander Trocchi centres on Joe (McGregor), a drifter helping out on the coal barge owned by Les (Mullan) and his wife Ella (Swinton). Soon after the two men find the corpse of a young woman floating down by the docks, Joe embarks on an affair with Ella that will have dramatic consequences for all three. It's a dark, brooding film, most notable perhaps for the surprisingly forthright eroticism of Joe's scenes with both Ella and Cathie (Mortimer), the lover seen in the film's many flashbacks. Now and then the dialogue grows a little too florid (which may almost be explained away by Joe's past), but Giles Nuttgens' noir camerawork and the excellent performances of all four principals carry the day.
Cast and crew