Kate (Ruth Wilson) has reached a difficult point on life’s highway.
She’s somewhere in her thirties and struggling to hold down a thankless job at a benefits office in Ramsgate, where her customers seem to specialise in hurling abuse at her. She has no significant other in her life, no real interests and spends much of her free time gazing wistfully at exotic locations on her computer screen. Her work colleague, Alison (Hayley Squires), is trying to hook her up with one of her male friends, telling her that she needs to start playing the field if she doesn’t want to be a spinster all her life – while Kate’s mum (Elizabeth Rider) criticises her daughter’s ‘difficult nature,’ which – apparently – makes her come across badly to others. Kate’s dad (Frank McCusker) just seems obsessed with giving her home-grown vegetables from his allotment.
It’s clear that Kate is badly in need of new horizons – and things change dramatically when she conducts an interview with ‘Blond’ (Tom Burke), a handsome stranger, who freely admits to having done time in prison and cheekily wants to know if she’s free for lunch later on.
Against all better judgement, Kate accepts the invitation and shortly thereafter finds herself engaged in frantic sex in a high rise car park. To say that she’s smitten by Blond would be something of an understatement. She becomes instantly obsessed with him, unable to function properly when he’s not there, constantly waiting for a call or a text or… something.
The trouble is, Blond is in complete control of this dangerous liaison and careful to give nothing away about his situation or his intentions. As viewers, we learn as little about him as Kate does. He’s an enigma and a pretty toxic one at that. It’s crystal clear that, if Kate cannot break the powerful hold he has on her, she is destined for heartbreak.
Harry Wootliff’s powerful little film is a veritable powder keg of longing, a symphony of doomed ambition. It’s as much a meditation on the theme of loneliness as it is an examination of the powerful pull of sexuality. Wilson is terrific here, offering yet another of her bruised outsiders struggling to survive the vagaries of life. She takes Kate through a maelstrom of subjugation until she finally seizes agency on a Spanish dance floor, thrashing ecstatically around to the sound of PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me.
Burke, meanwhile, makes me understand exactly why Kate is in Blond’s thrall, even when he’s being obnoxiously vague about his intentions or heartlessly exploiting her utter devotion to him. He is powerfully charismatic. The film is essentially a two-hander, with an underused Squires doing the best she can with the thankless role of Alison.
It could be argued that True Things is relentlessly one-note, but if that’s the case, then it’s a note played with utter perfection by skilled artists. The characters here feel absolutely genuine and the slow-burn, languorous atmosphere is further intensified by Ashley Connor’s woozy cinematography, which often depicts events in an out of focus haze. A scene where Kate reels drunkenly around at a house party almost has me reaching for the alka seltzer. Furthermore, there’s a delicious duality to what’s depicted onscreen. I’m not always certain that scenes I’ve just watched have actually happened or are simply imaginings plucked from within Kate’s troubled head-space
This could easily be annoying but, in the case of True Things, it gives the film added depth.