Jack (Sam Donnelly) has returned to London after a few years away to hook up with old criminal connections and make some quick money. After learning that they have all ‘gone straight’ he meets the enigmatic Laura (Amie Burns Walker) who knows of a diamond dealer called Duke with a safe full of £300,000 cash (Robert Goodman).
The criminal lovebirds hatch a plan to rob the old man, but not before he manages to find Jack’s houseboat and send a pair of goons round for an amazing Sergio Leone inspired silent stare-down. It then becomes a classic cat-and-mouse between rival criminals, but told across a twisting, time-shifting narrative…
Almost everyone in The Return speaks in rhetorical questions (starting with a police questioning that feels like a scientology audit). But this constant uncertainty fits the mood and reflects a paranoid London zeitgeist that has dominated this year’s Raindance. I’ve lost track of times when watching British Films where London has become a battleground for us vs. them narratives between rich City workers and striving outsiders.
Filmed on 35mm in a classic monochrome with husky voiceover and non-linear narrative, director Oliver Nias has created an adept London Neo-Noir with all the classic themes of corruption, betrayal, lust and inquiry. Yet what makes it more interesting is that it is set entirely during daylight hours: an unsettling twist on the classic nighttime Noirs.
Having said that, I think focusing solely on the visual style of the film does the project a slight disservice. Considering it was shot on film, Nias has got great performances out of the cast (time is money, remember) and the pacing of the film is just about perfect.
From the off, The Return makes itself abundantly clear that nothing will fall into place until the final scene – indeed, there are hints (not least the title) that the film should be watched more than once. This does not, however, mean that there aren’t long stretches to enjoy along the way. For a fairly complex film about lying and deception, it is remarkably easy to get sucked in…
The Return's second Raindance screening is this weekend - more details here