Director – Adam Oldroyd – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 94m
Two thieves break in to the house of a washed-up showbiz psychic entertainer and medium – out in cinemas on Friday, March 11th and on all major digital download platforms on Monday, March 21st
Stuart Pendrick a.k.a. The All-Seeing Stupendo (Les Dennis) is a touring, one-man theatre act psychic and medium specialising in mind-reading and contacting the dead. He’s also a compulsive pickpocket with a mind like a sewer, hardly a great combination for wholesome entertainment. After attempting to ingratiate himself with the woman best dressed to show off her cleavage in the front row, he manages none too surprisingly to say the wrong thing and offend the mostly elderly audience.
He rows with his agent Gerald (Anthony Head) about this, insisting the latter pick up his fee for the performance and get it over to him as soon as possible, then drives away from the theatre unaware he’s being tailed by Eva (April Pearson from Tucked, Jamie Patterson, 2018) and the gun-carrying Dom (Nathan Clarke) who follow him to his house, wait for the lights to go out then break in to find the stash of money Eva is certain is in his possession.
Up to this point, this feels like second rate British TV drama although you’re wondering where it’s going and there’s a chance that might be somewhere very interesting, although such chances are heavily mitigated by the fact that the long exchange between Stuart and his agent is heavy with backstory and exposition, suggesting that writer-director-editor Oldroyd is going to attempt to put over in dialogue what should be conveyed in image, sound and actor’s performance.
Sure enough, the film completely stalls spends its next drawn out hour with the medium and occupant held at gunpoint in his house even as he’s desperate to go to the lavatory (yes, that’s the level on which this film attempts to work). It makes no sense that the criminal Eva, played by Pearson as seemingly competent, would chose Dom, played as inept by Clarke, as a sidekick. His humour, whether scripted or improvised, is excruciating: for example, he googles breaking & entering to find out the phrase’s meaning. If you find this funny, perhaps you’ll love the film. I don’t and I didn’t.
The clever trailer, incidentally, works its way round the one hour pause in the house, cobbling together images from the opening and the ending that makes it look like a lot more happens in the course of this film than actually does.
This script might have worked as a radio play, where you can craft everything with words, sounds and performance alone. It might possibly have worked as a stage play where everything happening in a small space like a house can be a virtue. It might even have worked as a movie with a director as gifted as Hitchcock, a number of whose films are set in one room and he finds a way to make that thoroughly cinematic (think: Rope, 1948, Dial M For Murder, 1953, Rear Window, 1954). Oldroyd, clearly, is not Hitchcock. Although he might be equally obsessed with lavatories (Hitch spent decades trying to work one into a movie against industry sensibilities, finally succeeding in Psycho, 1960).
You’ll breathe a sigh of relief if you haven’t left an hour later on, because the film finally gets out of Stuart’s house and heads for a more visual finale on the clifftops at dawn involving a possible confession, a possible suicide, and a possible murder. The very ending, the film’s punchline if you will, is breathtaking, even if it gratuitously breaks one of the cardinal rules of screenwriting, but unfortunately you have to wade through the previous 90 minutes to get to it.
Sideshow is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, March 11th and on all major digital download platforms on Monday, March 21st.