War Zone, The

Director: Tim Roth

Actor Tim Roth proves himself also a gifted director with The War Zone, an intimate, sharply observed drama about a working-class family torn apart by incest and parental abuse. This meticulously staged, splendidly acted picture is uncompromisingly depressing (as it should be), but it’s so gripping, so psychoogically true, that it deserves to be seen on the big screen…Alexander Stuart’s screenplay, based on his controversial 1989 novel, is from the point of view of Tom (Freddie Cunliffe), a 15-year-old who resents his family’s relocation from London to rural, isolated Devon. Being uprooted from his friends has exacerbated Tom’s growing pains. He observes with equal measures of curiosity and anxiety his pregnant mum (Tilda Swinton), his vocal, abusive dad (Ray Winstone) and, particularly, his attractive sister, Jessie (the beautiful Lara Belmont), who’s only three years older but already has blossomed into an alluring young woman…Lonely, alienated and bored, Tom is an alert and perceptive youngster who soon detects a terrible secret that binds his father and Jessie. When Jessie repeatedly denies Tom’s allegations, he follows her and his father to a secluded bunker, where the latter brutally forces himself opon Jessie in a harrowing scene. Since the audience is ahead of the game, Roth’s ability to sustain tension throughout the story is all the more impressive. Understanding the familial aspects of the story – including its progression toward predictable tragedy – Roth puts all his directorial energy into detailed portraits of his four protagonists. The result is a superior, brooding family drama worthy of Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams – one I which the most effective moments are silent, with meaningful interactions expressed in gestures and looks.

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