Features Live Action Movies

Make Up

Director – Claire Oakley – 2019 – UK – Cert. 15 – 85m


In cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, July 31st.

Q&A with director Claire Oakley (recorded Monday, August 3rd).

I liked this a lot as it started off but less as it wore on. It has an enigmatic plot, a striking female cast and an intriguing location / setting. For me sadly the plot descended into cliché when it promised so much more. Other elements compensate however.

Ruth (Molly Windsor) heads down from Derby to join boyfriend Tom (Joseph Quinn) in the coastal Cornwall caravan park where he works on site in maintenance during the off-season, (cara)van provided. He’s delighted she can make it. Cue bedroom scenes. Ruth learns from facility manager Shirley (Lisa Palfrey) that Tom’s job is ideal for couples who live on site, which suits Ruth fine.

She’s less happy though when she tidies up the van and finds a red hair on an item of Tom’s clothing. Does he know someone with red hair? He never answers the question. But Ruth becomes obsessed with it. She imagines a red head disappearing round the side of a van. She goes paddling with 11 year old Kippa (Elodie Wilton) – to a depth of about four feet which when you can’t swim is not a smart move in surfing seas where the waves are high. Tom is furious.

She gets upset by the noise of foxes in the night. (Really? She didn’t hear any in Derby?) She is unsettled by the sound of a woman having sex in the shower cubicles. She is at once drawn to and terrified by rebellious loner Jade (Stefanie Martini) who who offers to help her with make up and does a nice sideline in wigs “which I never wear”, including red ones. This is the line along which the script descends into cliché.

Predictable plot aside, the film has strengths – unusual milieu and likeable female leads and bit parts.

The van park out of season is an unusual world, with fumigated vans sealed in polythene. (A vastly different use of fumigation from Parasite, Bong Joon Ho, 2019.) Ruth is convinced she ‘s seen someone living in one of these vans, despite Shirley’s assurances that they’re all empty. And when elderly resident April goes missing late at night, among the search party Ruth is assigned the task of checking through these vans, a very eerie landscape indeed. The Cornish accents and shots of the dark surface of the sea compound this.

This isn’t a horror movie and the locations don’t evoke a sense of dread or anything like that (although they would lend themselves easily to that purpose were it the director’s intention, which it clearly isn’t) , but they do provoke a compelling otherworldliness. The one comparison that springs to mind is the floating lake chalets of The Isle (Kim Ki-duk, 2000).

The film is well cast at least in terms of its females – Joseph Quinn as Tom seems to diminish as the film progresses, but that may have a lot to do with the script. Molly Windsor has a naturalness and just the right amount of presence necessary to carry the film. The slow speaking, Cornish accented Lisa Palfrey is a pleasure whenever she appears onscreen. Elodie Wilton makes an impression with her small role. Stefanie Martini is terrific as the savvy, intriguing lone woman into whose orbit Ruth is being drawn (she’s better still in Hurricane, David Blair, 2018, if you can track it down).

A script that leaves a lot to be desired, not least because it fails to fulfil on its promising, ambiguous title, but Make Up has a lot going for it in other areas. Plus, it’s good to see a movie set in Cornwall, not something we see that often. Flawed, then, but most definitely worth a look.

Make Up is out in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema in the UK on Friday, July 31st.

Q&A with director Claire Oakley (recorded Monday, August 3rd).


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