Malcolm (Matthew Jure) is an East-End property developer who lost everything after the financial crisis of 2008. He is left with only one dingy terrace house that is in dire need of renovation, yet the shock of losing so much has crippled his enthusiasm and left him with a debilitating housebound agoraphobia and appetite for heavy drinking. His only friend Sonny (Richard Pepple) is growing increasingly frustrated with his inactivity, and adds to Malcolm’s anxiety by demanding the repayment of a substantial loan. And just as the situation couldn’t get more stressful, his eventual attempt at home improvements lead to a dark discovery in the very structure of the building…
With God’s Acre, writer/director J.P. Davidson manages to tap into a growing discomfort amongst young people living in the capital – the feeling that 2015 might be a tipping point; the beginning of a mass exodus – and Malcolm embodies a generation of people that are symbolically trapped in/by their accommodation. A quick look around the internet and it becomes obvious that the romantic metropolitan dream of London is dying in the face of obscene property development, rent prices and low wages for the young.
Malcolm is seen constantly navigating his anxiety with a cacophony of vodka, wine, beers and spliffs. Some viewers might see this as evidence of alcoholism, but in all honesty I just saw a typical Londoner (except for drinking vodka from the bottle whilst driving, who can afford a car?!) – how else do young people cope with such hostility from a city that doesn’t care about them than by drinking heavily in their own homes?
The narrative is perfect for an indie production as the action is confined to (pretty much) a single location: Malcolm’s house/prison. This is obviously useful for budget reasons, but can be risky as it inevitably draws close attention to the acting, dialogue and mise-en-scene. But Davidson’s directing, editing and script are easily strong enough. In fact I can easily imagine the film as an effective stage adaptation.
The disheveled and gaunt Malcolm is reminiscent of Christian Bale in The Machinist, and his claustrophobic environment reminded me of the apartment in Darren Aronofsky’s π (Pi). Yet it is the importance of the message and narrative of God’s Acre that is the real reward. London in 2015 is literally killing its inhabitants with debt, an insane coast-of-living and a growing contempt for social cohesion. Distributors, pick up this film!
God’s Acre plays at Raindance this year – more information here