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True Things

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
True Things
Photograph: Venice Film Festival

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Ruth Wilson as terrific as a woman coming apart at the seams in Harry Wootliff’s mercurial infatuation drama

One of those actors who is equally convincing playing vulnerable (Dark River) and commanding (Luther) – as well as everything in between (The Affair) – Ruth Wilson inhabits the coming-undone end of the spectrum in Harry Wootliff’s empathetic portrait of a struggling single woman who falls hard for a wrong’un.

Wilson is Kate, a depressed young woman sleepwalking through a crappy job at an employment centre in the British south coast town of Ramsgate. Her love life is as bare as the cupboards in her flat. Her well-meaning parents ply her with veggies from the garden and gentle concern. A supposed friend at work (Hayles Squires) gives her condescending advice about finding a good man and settling down.

Wootliff, who co-wrote with playwright Molly Davies and adapts a 2010 novel by Deborah Kay Davies, showed the pitfalls of that route in her debut, the wonderful, raw fertility drama Only You. Here, she shows how biting loneliness, boiling desire, deep-rooted insecurity and struggles with mental health are a recipe for damaging choices. Because if you’re looking for a dream man, Tom Burke’s shifty, peroxide-haired ex-con, Blond, is a fair few rungs below Mr Darcy. But then, as the film’s gauzy daydream sequences remind us, desire can just make our decisions for us. 

Burke brings a distracted broodiness and a slight tang of menace as Blond – he’s a live wire that Kate is happy to plug herself into – and Wilson marshals a kind of tentative daring to communicate how this woman is content to risk everything for the chance to feel that charge. The pair summon a believable syncopated rhythm in their scenes together that makes you wish there were just a few more of them.

True Things is really good at building the walls of Kate’s prison – the job that doesn’t allow for a proper lunch break, unsupportive bosses, the small flat, the beat-up car that gets her to work ten minutes late – and showing how that, far from offering a romantic escape, Blond’s gaslighting and manipulation just usher her into another kind of cage.

What True Things is less sure on is signposting a way out. Kate’s half-formed ideas of going travelling give expression to a screaming voice inside that demands she escape all this. But how? The ending offers only a slightly clichéd vision of emancipation that leaves the picture not much clearer. After showing how hard life can be, it feels a little bit too easy.

True Things premiered at
the Venice Film Festival. In UK cinemas Apr 8, 2022. 

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen

Cast and crew

  • Director:Harry Wootliff
  • Screenwriter:Harry Wootliff, Molly Davies
  • Cast:
    • Ruth Wilson
    • Tom Burke
    • Hayley Squires
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