Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Unloved

Showing at the Toronto International Film Festival: The Unloved, directed by Samantha Morton

Synopsis from the TIFF website:

As an actor, Samantha Morton once said she had only one thing to give to directors: “Honesty. Massive honesty and truth.” Directing her own film for the first time, she draws that same truth from her cast and her story.

The Unloved
is inspired by Morton's own life as a girl in the British Midlands. Lucy (Molly Windsor) lives with an unstable, sometimes violent father, played by Robert Carlyle. When the local social services step in to rescue her, Lucy leaves the chaos of her family for the uncertain dangers of a care home.

In stark, distilled scenes that fall somewhere between the work of Ken Loach and Terence Davies, Morton shows Lucy attempting to navigate the social services system – arbitrary rules, hostile older kids and, most powerfully, isolation. Almost by instinct, Lucy learns to observe the shifting winds of her reality rather than always daring to react.

The Unloved
was made for Britain's Channel 4 because Morton insisted that girls like Lucy were far more likely to see films on television. And yet, Morton has made something thoroughly cinematic. The images are painterly and the sound heightened, all designed to pull the viewer closer and closer to Lucy's perspective. The intimacy and focus of the film are so complete that, even in its moments of childhood horror, the sense of empathy is unbroken.

Morton's entire childhood was spent in the care of the Nottinghamshire social services system, from infancy to age eighteen. Girls she knew there went on to become prostitutes, two of them murdered on the streets. Morton escaped that fate partly through the strength of her imagination. It was in social services that she began training as an actor, and it was also there, at age sixteen, that she began to storyboard the film that would become The Unloved – full of massive honesty, but also a surprisingly mature art.

The film's website is here. Unfortunately, people in the US can't watch the videos, but more will probably be available later, especially if there is a US theatrical release.

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