Like marbles in a basin, damaged souls will find each other, their suffering seemingly acting like some telekinetic gravitational force pulling fellow counterparts into their own orbits. Call it chance, fate or divine intervention even, there is no reason why Peter Mullan’s Joseph seeks refuge inside the charity shop run by Hannah (Olivia Coleman) other than in an attempt to find sanctuary from his own inner rage – a veritable tinderbox of blind violence and aggression. A devout Christian herself, Hannah welcomes in this stranger, tolerates his oscillation between his sneery taunts and apologetic endeavours to exercise self-regulation.
The wonderfully economic screenplay allows the attempted connection between these two to strike a persuasive balance between feel-good meetings of minds and ultra-bleak nihilism. But Hannah herself is hiding a secret too. Possibly the hard slap Joseph needs to make him aware of his own context and environment, he discovers she too is in a hell of her very own. Considine’s first feature film hinges entirely on two hugely affecting portrayals by Mullan and Coleman – the latter in particular giving a terrifyingly honest depiction of abuse – whilst Mullan, his voice deep and cracked with bitterness and self-pity, gives Joseph a whispered humanity between the eruptions of fury.
Words: Ash Verjee