Love Without Walls15
Considering the recent pandemic, you would think that it would spur creative types to produce more upbeat material for the masses.
Not so for writer and director Jane Gull however, who follows up her 2016 film My Feral Heart with a love story that certainly goes through the wringer.
Working the clubs as a singer songwriter in London is Paul (Niall McNamee). Things are a little tight for himself and his manager Sophie (Shana Swash), who just so happens to be his wife of ten years too.
He’s in the process of taking the knowledge, the infamous test that official London cabbies take, but it’s hard work.
But being a singer doesn’t pay the bills – literally – and the couple soon find themselves kicked out of their home unable to pay the rent. They crash at his sister’s place, but it’s a little awkward there, so the pair decide that the best thing to do is get out of London.
They make their way to Southend, where they first met, in the hopes of securing jobs and getting a roof over their heads. As enthusiastic and optimistic as the couple are, things don’t quite go to plan.
Jane Gull’s second feature is hard work on the emotionally front. So much so that at times she makes a Ken Loach film feel like a slapstick comedy. To say it’s emotionally draining is an understatement. There’s an invisible threshold that exists for audiences in terms of what they can take on the gritty drama front, and Gull triple jumps over it, leaving us feeling quite battered in the process.
Perhaps that we are post pandemic is part of the problem, in that we’re searching for light relief. Sadly, it’s not to be found here.
That shouldn’t take anything away from Gull however, who does an excellent job in honing her skills.
The one constant that keeps the film going is the relationship between its two leads. Swash (yes sister of Joe and also another EastEnders alumni) and McNamee click superbly on screen, making for a couple you quickly root for from the outset. It’s an earthy relationship that they share, making for a refreshingly honest take of a young, married couple.
The film also features original music by McNamee, who thankfully can carry a tune, and whose songs at least give some respite from the downward spiral the couple find themselves in.
It is a film that does get dark, and it’s only because you care for the main protagonists that you kind of hope they get a break or two. You get the impression that Gull does step over that boundary of reality, towards the latter end of the film, and that she and the film could have benefitted from if she pulled back from going there. But in doing so, she does lean just a little too hard into the doom and gloom.
Although at times this feels like a film you endure rather than enjoy, especially with the onslaught of bad luck the couple suffer from, the performances from its two bright stars are likely to keep you gripped.
Jane Gull has produced one gut-wrenching drama, that occasionally sparkles with a striking, honest beauty, thanks to Sophie and Paul, an endearing couple that you can’t help but heavily invest emotionally in, that means like them, you’ll have no choice but to see it through ‘til the end.