Film review: True Things
A dark tale of erotic obsession in a British seaside town
The British writer-director Harry Wootliff’s “well-liked” 2018 debut Only You centred on a couple experiencing fertility problems, said Leslie Felperin in the FT. Her second feature, the “woozy, intoxicating” True Things, adapted from a novel by Deborah Kay Davies, charts a rather more troubled relationship, involving a “destructive erotic obsession”.
Kate (Ruth Wilson) is a middle-class benefits officer with “a barely hidden wild streak”. She is dissatisfied with life and already in trouble for persistent lateness at Margate’s job centre when one of her clients, a “sexy bit of rough” with a prison record (Tom Burke) asks her out for lunch. Within hours, they’re having sex in a car park. She refers to this nameless man as “the Blond”, and is soon mad about him. But it seems the hunger is all hers and, with terrible inevitability, he starts taking advantage of her infatuation.
For Kate, the romance is a “delusion” and an “addiction”, and there is an “element of insanity about it – “nightmares, hallucinations, clawing open an abyss”, said Tim Robey in The Daily Telegraph. “The cinematography nudges us boldly to the brink with rain on the lens”, and the editing becomes “fragmentary”. But throughout, what really “rivets” is Wilson’s performance. Kate is a mess, yet Wilson succeeds in making her peculiarly relatable.
Burke is good too, skilfully lending the Blond an air of “old-world romanticism”, said Clarisse Loughrey on The Independent. But the problem with the film is that he is still too obviously a cad, making it hard for us to identify with Kate. And though there are intriguing hints that her obsession is a rebellion against the social expectations she faces as a woman in her 30s, this idea remains underexplored.