A Change in the Weather

 

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Scenes from a marriage that call out for clearer storytelling.

 
Change in the Weather, A

 

The team of Jon Sanders, director, and Anna Mottram, actress, have built up their own very personal niche in British cinema with films based on stories devised by them but performed by casts who are encouraged to improvise. In terms of style and content too they have created works which, even if uneven, mark them out as auteurs. In particular their 2013 venture Back to the Garden looked quietly but piercingly at ordinary lives with an emphasis on those no longer young. Their latest offering, A Change in the Weather (a superbly unemphatic but richly symbolic title), retains many of these elements and again finds the photographer David Scott and the composer Douglas Finch making valuable contributions that fit the tone perfectly.

 

Unfortunately, the positive aspects are in this instance overshadowed by poor storytelling. The aging theme    continues with a writer, Dan (Bob Goody), and his wife, Lydia, who assists him in his work and is played by Mottram herself, being at the centre of the film. This is a study of a well-established marriage that has become a mere shell of itself and full awareness of this comes to the surface during a workshop held by the couple while away in a country retreat in France. For reasons none to clear (after all Dan writes crime stories), this workshop involves performers who may or may not be friends of the couple who are there to play out scenes from a marriage which reflects that of Dan and Lydia. The latter, also an actress, takes on the role of the fictional Elsa as an older woman while two others represent her younger self. But, instead of explaining this at once, the film starts with an interview that seems authentic and not some kind of acting exercise and we find the initially unnamed Lydia who appears to be called Elsa referring to her husband as Bernard after which we discover that the name of this woman's husband is Dan.  In the circumstances it is not surprising that confusion reigns and it extends to the appearance of only half identified additional figures. These include someone from the past but, whoever she may be, she appears to be present as half ghost and half hallucination.

 

The failure to clarify (perhaps born of the film's creators being too close to their material to be aware of the audience's need for it) impedes both understanding and the sense of flow: in consequence individual scenes often suggest separate bits of improvisation. The opening scene which nails the life-style of comfortably well-off people today is great and finds Mottram on superb form and a key confrontation towards the close sparks into life. But the highlights cannot compensate for the film's inability to put the audience at ease by providing answers to the questions which spring up so distractingly and prevent us from identifying with the truths at the heart of this tale.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Anna Mottram, Bob Goody, Meret Becker, Stephen Lowe, Douglas Finch, Maxine Finch, Emma Garden, Tanya Myers, Seonaid Goody, Constance Storey.

 

Dir Jon Sanders, Pro James Barrett and Anisha Fields, Screenplay Anna Mottram and Jon Sanders, Ph David Scott, Ed Georgius Misjura, Music Douglas Finch.

 

Deerstalker Films/Jon Sanders Films-Verve Pictures.
98 mins. UK. 2017. Rel: 7 July 2017. Cert. PG.