Kelly + Victor (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner20/09/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 95 mins

Impressively directed and beautifully shot, this is a sharply written and superbly acted drama that's by turns disturbing, depressing, shocking and thought-provoking, but the central relationship is so dark and destructive that it makes the film difficult to watch.

What's it all about?
Directed by Kieran Evans, Kelly + Victor is set in Liverpool and based on the 2002 novel by Niall Griffiths. When scrapyard worker Victor (Julian Morris) meets shopgirl Kelly (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) on a crowded nightclub dancefloor, they fall for each other instantly and end up having intense sex back at Kelly's grimy bedsit. However, Victor is somewhat taken aback when Kelly both bites him and chokes him in the process.

Kelly's proclivities leave a mark on Victor in more ways than one and he soon returns for a second date, only to have Kelly frighten him off by tying him up and carving their initials into his back with broken glass. Victor subsequently tries to distance himself from Kelly, but finds he can't stop thinking about her. Meanwhile, she visits a dominatrix friend (Claire Keelan) and has an encounter with a violent ex (Michael Ryan) who's angry with her for getting him locked up for assault.

The Good
Antonia Campbell-Hughes is excellent as Kelly, a deeply damaged soul whose meek and slightly spacey exterior masks a dark streak of destructive sadism. Julian Morris is equally good as the moth to her flame; their first encounter awakens something in him that he doesn't fully understand, yet he's compelled to return even if he knows she will hurt him again.

The strength of the script is that it lets the intensity of the relationship do the talking and allows the audience to work out Kelly's probable backstory for themselves (with a few hints here and there, such as her ex and an absent father), just as Victor is unable to articulate what draws him to Kelly in the first place. The resulting effect of this being both thought-provoking and profoundly unsettling. The film is also beautifully shot throughout, courtesy of Piers McGrail's exceptional cinematography, which uses frequent close-ups during the scenes where Kelly and Victor are together and makes strong use of the film's authentic and contrasting Liverpool locations.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that the central relationship is so dark and destructive that it becomes almost impossible to watch; you also lose all sympathy for Kelly after the scene with the glass, which makes it difficult to invest in their relationship (this isn't like Secretary where you feel the two damaged characters have found their perfect soulmates). It's fair to surmise that that very complexity is exactly the film's intention, but you're left with nothing to cling on to and the effect is both distancing and depressing.

Worth seeing?
Victor + Kelly is a deeply disturbing drama that features superb performances from Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Julian Morris and marks out writer-director Kieran Evans as a future talent to watch.

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Content updated: 23/10/2017 00:00

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