Blood Cells (Garden Thieves Pictures, NR)

blood-cells 75The question remains of why anyone would want to see this film.

 

 

 

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One approach to filmmaking treats the finished product as a sort of game between the audience and the filmmaker, or as a puzzle which the filmmaker poses and the audience must solve using the information provided in the film. Given a person and/or a situation, little bits of information are provided over the course of the film, and if all goes well the viewer will have a complete sense of the person or situation that is sufficiently rewarding for the time invested in viewing the film.

This approach has informed mystery writing for decades. In fact, the Detection Club of London, whose members included notables like Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton, and Dorothy Sayers, developed a code of ethics aimed at ensuring that an observant reader would have a fair chance to solve the mystery. There is no such code for films, and the approach is often applied to stories that aren’t mysteries in the conventional sense of the term. While it is true that every person in real life is a mystery, because each of us has a unique history and set of talents not known to anyone but us, it does not follow that every created character is a mystery worth solving.

And that brings us to Blood Cells, a film directed by Joseph Bull and Luke Seomore that was nominated for the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film at the 2015 Edinburgh International Film Festival. It’s certainly a classy film, with a strong central performance by Barry Ward (who also played the title character in Ken Loach’s film Jimmy’s Hall, currently playing in U.S. theaters), a great sense of location (both geographically and within England’s social class system), and a nice sense of finding visual counterparts to reflect mental states. It’s the first fiction feature for its directors (they previously directed the 2009 documentary Isolation and several shorts) and demonstrates that they can create a film with the look and feel required to play the festival and art-house circuit.

And yet the question remains of why anyone would want to see this film. I enjoyed it primarily for the location shooting, but the whole game of unraveling the history and motivations of the central character doesn’t have the novelty it once did, so the burden is on the filmmaker to create something new and interesting using this increasingly-common formula. Depressed white men harboring a secret wound are a dime a dozen, and Bull and Sennett don’t do enough to convince me why I should care about the significantly-named Adam (Ward) or the various people he meets and the things he does on the odyssey which forms the spine of this film’s narrative.

If I were writing a set of rules for creating this type of mystery film, I would include a proviso that the film itself must be self-sufficient. In other words, everything needed to understand and interpret the film should be provided within the film itself, and providing back story and exposition in the publicity materials is cheating. Unfortunately, without that ancillary information source of information, it would be even harder to sustain interest in Blood Cells.

There are no extras on the disc. | Sarah Boslaugh

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