Dirty God

 

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Women are at the heart of a drama featuring a heroine who has been violently attacked.

 
Dirty God

Vicky Knight

   

When George Cukor made A Woman's Face in 1941 he was telling the story of a scarred woman in exactly the mode one might expect of a Hollywood movie, that is to say the tale he told was pure melodrama and a vehicle for a star, Joan Crawford. The approach adopted in Sacha Polak's Dirty God, co-written by her and Susie Farrell, is the exact opposite. This may be about a woman, Jade played by Vicky Knight, who has had acid thrown over her by a former lover, but the film sets up an everyday tone miles away from played-up melodrama. It's a film which puts female characters screen centre and is obviously well intentioned and suited to today's concerns over women who are abused. Yet for all that, the film is less ably judged overall than one would have hoped.

 

Despite being an international co-production, Dirty God is strictly an English language film and one set in London. At the outset Jade, who has a baby daughter named Rae (Eliza Brady-Girard), is seen returning home after surgery and all too clearly disfigured on one side of her face as well as on other parts of her body. She is understandably in a tense state when going out in company with a friend, Shami (Rebecca Stone), and she is resentful of the way in which her mother (Katherine Kelly) tends to take over the care of little Rae. Feeling that men will no longer find her attractive, Jade turns to on-line sex which enables her to conceal her looks and later, with no further help coming from medical treatment in this country, she elects to take a job that will enable her to save her earnings and thus afford a trip to Mexico and pay for a further operation there.

 

Jade is not made into an idealised figure (she can behave badly and foolishly) but the audience is clearly meant to feel sympathy for her situation. However, the approach taken, promising in itself, proves hard to sustain given the decision to let the film play out at a length of 104 minutes. Certain scenes seem over-extended or just there to fill out the length including not one but two club episodes - although it could be that the aim here is to offer something to add to the film's appeal for younger audiences. Even more importantly, though, there is a sense of Polak having to find a way to extend the material to make a feature film. Thus it is that we have a sub-plot involving Jade, Shami and Shami's boyfriend Naz (Bluey Robinson) which comes close to being a romantic triangle drama and also the contrived intensity of a night-time sequence, this being an episode in which Jade irresponsibly seizes control of Rae, takes her to her workplace and ends up sleeping out of doors on a cold, wet night. Even here, there is still a determination to avoid all-out melodrama, but these elements nevertheless play out as consciously added drama and, equally, the writing lacks the depth required to feel wholly convincing in the final scenes featuring mother and daughter. Dirty God may well be found sympathetic by audiences drawn to it, although I felt that for all its good intentions it failed to achieve the full impact and emotional power at which it was aiming. However, its weaknesses never prevent Vicky Knight from being a strong central presence and the fact that the actress has been scarred in real life enables her to draw deeply and courageously on her own experiences.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Vicky Knight, Katherine Kelly, Eliza Brady-Girard, Rebecca Stone, Bluey Robinson, Dana Marineci, Rosie Akerman, Karl Jackson, Jake Wheeldon, Tom Wainwright, Adam Forster, Jay McDonald.

 

Dir Sacha Polak, Pro Michael Elliott and Marleen Slot, Screenplay Susie Farrell and Sacha Polak, Ph Ruben Impens, Pro Des Sanne Schat, Ed Sander Vos, Music Rutger Reinders, Costumes Tine Deseure and Sara Hakkenberg.

 

Private View/EMU Films/Viking Films-Modern Films.
104 mins. The Netherlands/UK/Belgium/Ireland. 2019. Rel: 6 June 2019. Cert. 15.