Starring: Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Julian Morris, William Ruane
Kelly (Campbell-Hughes) and Victor (Morris) are two mid twenties individuals who meet in a nightclub whose mutual passion is immediately obvious and they embark on a passionate relationship helping the two of them to forget their seemingly empty lives in England’s poverty stricken north. However, this passion also evolves into a violent and sadistic passion that is at first liberating for both of them but also threatens to destroy both of their lives.
Well it is apparently grim up north, and in Kieran Evan’s adaptation of Niall Griffiths’ novel it most certainly is. Set amongst the desolate backdrop of the fading industry of Liverpool, Kelly + Victor is a powerful, complex and unflinching love story that bravely explores uncharted themes of sado masochism and the power and extreme levels of intimacy and eroticism it can potentially provide. It is a film that is violent, dark, intimate and most certainly unforgettable.
As the couple, Campbell-Hughes and Morris give brave performances and provide sympathetic, rich and compelling protagonists. Of course exactly what this film is about is very much down to the interpretation of the viewer, but at its heart are some very powerful and disturbing, yet universal themes. Kelly has a troubled and violent history, and it is this that dominates what she does in the narrative and the overall narrative outcome. Despite being from the city, Victor is a thoughtful character that loves nothing more than the arts and to be surrounded by nature and provides an extremely sympathetic character. He is confused but fascinated by his experiences with Kelly and this is what in part shapes the narrative. Ultimately all these two people want is connection and intimacy in this predominantly cold and harsh world and it is due to these universal themes at its heart that Kelly + Victor gives us sympathetic characters.
Kelly + Victor is of course from the offset not a cheerful and optimistic film, and it is not a spoiler to say that their romance is doomed, but the ending is still devastating and powerful. My only criticism is that perhaps the film tries to emphasise its themes too much to the point of contrivance, again I cannot go into detail too much at the risk of spoilers, but perhaps some themes are hammered home a little too much. Subtle would be the wrong word, as due to the extreme unflinching rawness of the subject the film’s depiction of certain themes are suitably less than subtle, but in terms of narrative themes perhaps the audience should be given more of a chance to interpret things for themselves. Otherwise this is an impressive debut and thoroughly deserving BAFTA win for promising director Kieran Evans.
Raw and dark, yet at times sensitive and intimate; Kelly + Victor is a complex and allegorical love story made with integrity and genuine passion.