Daphne – Film Review by David Minogue
Directed by Peter Mackie Burns
Written by Nico Mensinga
Cinematography by Adam Scarth
Stars: Emily Beecham, Geraldine James, Nathaniel Martello-White, Tom Vaughan Lawlor, Stuart McQuarrie
In his short films to date, Scottish director Peter Mackie Burns has presented an eclectic mix of female characters. Shorts such as Honey, Run, Milk and Stronger have each featured two women in unconventional narratives. His new feature length film, Daphne is a rich character study of a 31 year old woman living in modern-day London. In an interview at this year’s Rotterdam Film Festival, where it debuted, Mackie Burns noted that the characters in the film were partially based on people he knew. He also cited the inspiration of Gena Rowland’s performance in John Cassavetes’s 1974 film A Woman Under the Influence. Mackie Burns spent several years developing the pre-production of Daphne including two years working on character development with Emily Beecham. She gives a stellar performance as Daphne, who is on-screen for the entire duration of the film. It is her point of view that is depicted in every situation.
Early scenes in the film portray Daphne as a person who finds it hard to care about anything in her life. She dismisses companionship and emotional support from people in her life such as her restaurant owner boss Joe (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) and her mother Rita (Geraldine James). Her relationships with other men consist of fleeting one night stands until she meets David (Nathaniel Martello-White). She is a mess of contradictions and that is what makes her real and relatable. Emily Beecham portrays Daphne as someone who only lets people into her life to a certain extent. Geraldine James is sage-like in the refusal to give up caring for her daughter. The film’s intermittent scenes between daughter and mother are either contentious or poignant. Daphne keeps the men in her life such as Joe and David on the periphery even though she acknowledges they care for her. Central to the portrayal of Daphne’s character is the city of London itself. London is a city seen through Daphne’s eyes. In focusing on her point of view we see everything good and bad about the city. It is a place that can be both incredibly vibrant and isolating. Like any major city it is an also a place of sudden acts of violence. The film questions does the sudden shock of witnessing something terrible change a person. It explores the intervention of professional and spiritual healing. It ultimately asks does healing come from within ourselves or from those who already know us.
This is a film that will undoubtedly bring Peter Mackie Burns’ work as a filmmaker to a wider audience. Many of his short films are on line and are all character studies in themselves. Throughout her career Emily Beecham has to date featured in several films and television series including the Coen Brothers Hail Caesar! and AMC’s Into the Badlands but this a film that will bring her to greater acclaim in cinema.