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  Justine Living In Oblivion
Year: 2021
Director: Jamie Patterson
Stars: Tallulah Haddon, Sophie Reid, Sian Reese-Williams, Xavien Russell, Steve Oram, Kirsty Dillon, Nathan Ariss, Charlotte Atkinson
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Justine (Tallulah Haddon) wakes up in the bath, mostly immersed in water and with a plastic bottle floating beside her. She has bruises on her face and seems disoriented, but her consciousness comes into sharper focus when she realises someone is banging on the door of her flat, demanding to speak to her. She rouses herself and goes to the door (she had been clothed in the bath) to find her landlord angrily demanding the rent, but she fobs him off by promising it that afternoon, mouthing "Fuck off!" to him as he departs, not noticing. A few days earlier she had been in better shape, and when in a bookshop she was shoplifting from, she was seen by student Rachel (Sophie Reid) who was both amazed at her boldness, and attracted to it as well...

Justine was another of director Jamie Patterson's small scale social dramas, this one written by Jeff Murphy, though maybe they should have picked a less common name to call their protagonist, for there were an awful lot of eponymous Justines out there in movieland. Setting aside the potential difficulty in tracking the film down thanks to its title, this began as one of those misery efforts where the lead character is on a path to self-destruction, but one listen to her accent and you may get a hint this was going to avoid cliché for the most part, because this Justine was not what she seems, despite a penchant for vodka-induced oblivion and hanging out in playparks in this seaside town with dispossessed teen Peach (Xavien Russell), leaving her looking like a "type".

She patently very unhappy, and has to see a probation officer, Leanne (Sian Reese-Williams), to talk through her problems and with any luck set her on the path to recovery, but things are very up and down for her. She can spend days high functioning, then a few days more in a drunken stupor or even unconscious, and either cannot or will not break this cycle, rendering the story as something of a cautionary tale for anyone who seeks to block out their issues or obstacles with addiction. To be fair, we have seen so many of these that you kind of expect some redemption by the end, but in this instance it keeps you guessing about whether Justine will be able to break out of her downward spiral or whether she will be consumed by her self-loathing and inability to shake herself out of the morass of alcoholism that has her in its grip.

This was in a way about the comfort of nihilism, and how the expectation that things will only get worse from here, that there is no reason to assume other people want the best for you, and are in fact so selfish that they will happily use you as a punching bag emotionally (or even literally) if they do pay your attention, and if they don't it's because they are withholding love from you as a punishment for some transgression you have only a vague grasp of. However, there is one person in Justine's life who has the chance to make her better, feel that worth of her own soul, and she is Rachel. The only times we see Justine in any level of contentment is when she is with Rachel, be that having sex, taking a break at the beach, or just making small talk - anything more serious, Justine shies away from. These scenes were the heart of the film, and the dilemma was what to do if you want to help but probably cannot: time and again we see a character giving Justine some home truths to shape her up, and time and again she returns to the bottle. A sad little film, hauntingly delivered.

[Justine has an on demand release through Curzon Home Cinema on Friday, 5th March 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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