Daphne

 

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Two men create a film that portrays contemporary life from a woman's angle.

 
Daphne

Emily Beecham 

 

That this film's title is the name of its central character is valid confirmation of the extent to which the piece revolves around Daphne who is played by Emily Beecham. Indeed that fact explains why, far more than is usually the case, responses to the film will depend on the extent to which each individual viewer can identify with her. Aged 31, Daphne lives in London, works in the kitchen of a small restaurant and lives it up at night. Dubious about love, she goes for dating on line eager to enjoy sex fortified by alcohol and drugs. It's hardly surprising that when this white woman first meets the film's most sympathetic character - a black nightclub bouncer named David (the excellent Nathaniel Martello-White) - she should be pissed and ready to use a four-letter word to describe him. There are other men in her life too, including her married boss, Joe (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), but, while she embraces the lifestyle she has adopted, underneath it all she is not really a happy woman and that puts her at odds with others.

 

When the film was screened in Edinburgh many acclaimed Beecham's persuasive performance and, although the film's writer, Nico Mensinga, and its director, Peter Mackie Burns, are both male, they have created a work which presents life from a woman's perspective. Those who can identify with Daphne - be it that they see themselves in her or as the person they could so easily become - will be drawn in by the movie. But, while she seems authentically drawn, I myself was rather relieved when the film turned to David, who is rather improbably attracted to her, or to her mother, Rita (Geraldine James). The latter has been diagnosed with cancer and is a woman who has an uneasy relationship with her daughter but James, pitch-perfect once again, captures too the underlying bond.

 

The story told in Daphne is shaped by the central character's changing responses to having been a chance witness of a stabbing.  By the end this is making her become more outward-looking, a pointer to change. But how much you care will depend on what the viewer brings to the film, just as the 2010 film Blue Valentine relied on how closely its audience could recognise the relationship shared by its central couple. Inevitably, my rating above reflects my own distance from the character who by the close has more or less become the film's heroine. Anyone who feels closer to Daphne and her situation will undoubtedly value Daphne more highly.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Emily Beecham, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Nathaniel Martello-White, Ritu Arya, Karina Fernandez, Sinead Matthews, Ragevan Vasan, Osy Ikhile, Amra Mallassi, Stuart McQuarrie, Geraldine James.

 

Dir Peter Mackie Burns, Pro Valentina Brazzini and Tristan Goligher, Screenplay Nico Mensinga, Ph Adam Scarth, Pro Des Miren Manañón Tejedor, Ed Nick Emerson, Music Sam Beste, Costumes Nigel Egerton.

 

BFI/Creative Scotland/The Bureau-Altitude Film Distribution.
86 mins. UK. 2016. Rel: 29 September 2017. Cert. 15.