LFF Review – World Cinema – Natural Selection
Darwin’s theory of survival runs deeply through this new film from Robbie Pickering, Natural Selection
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As my opening film and introduction to my London Film Festival experience, Natural Selection is solid, enjoyable and rich with tone, oh and some of the best characterization I have seen in a while.
Devout Christian wife, Linda, Rachel Harris, is married to the stoic Abe. The couple is extremely faithful to the Lord and even though Linda is barren and unable to bear a child the pair are unwavering in their Faith. Abe is so strict that he denies them both sexual inter course as they cannot conceive and therefore it would be a sin. When Abe suffers from a stroke whilst masturbating into a cup at a sperm bank, Linda is shocked to uncover that Abe had been making his ‘DONATIONS’ for 25 years. Linda decides to go on a mission to find Abe’s biological son, Raymond, played by Matt O’Leary. Raymond isn’t exactly what Linda imagined any son of Abe to be, he is foul-mouthed, a drug addict and a petty criminal. In what turns into a weird buddy/road movie the two find an odd, but meaningful relationship, that comes out of two people very much in need of release.
Rachel Harris turns in a brilliant performance as the naïve and kind-hearted Linda. I have only seen her in Diary of a Wimpy Kid as the bossy and out of date Mother, and in The Hangover as the over bearing girlfriend of Ed Helms. But here, she is a great actor that can certainly command a lead role, she brings humour, sadness and beauty sometimes separately sometimes all at the same time. Also Matt O’Leary as Raymond, is very effective as the man who just knows no other way, he just cannot help himself. It would have been very easy for O’Leary to play Raymond a lot nicer than he did, but it was a master stroke to take the longer harder path. Raymond is more believable because we totally despise him at first.
You instantly can relate to all the characters in the film, Linda with her high-waisted jeans and rimmed glasses will remind you partly of a Mum of your best mate when you were growing up and partly of a young child, who hasn’t quite realised that the world is a painful and dirty place. She finally gets her chance to MOTHER someone, even it is a long-haired greasy red neck. The pair find a validation in each other that is sweet watch, it is something that many of us long to feel.
It is easy to see why Natural Selection performed so well at SXSW this year and almost swept the board with awards for, Break Through Performances for both of its Leads, Grand Jury Award, Audience Award, Best Screenplay, Best Score/Music and Best Editing. Pretty good huh?
My only criticism of Robbie Pickering’s writer/director début is that sometime the amount of trust that Linda throws at Raymond starts to become cartoon like. Even after the amount of betrayal he throws at her time and time again she keeps on believing in him. Wouldn’t a woman who has endured 25 years of sexless marriage to find her Husband has been ‘DONATING’, be a little less forgiving of the male sex? Wouldn’t the stoic Christian take a little more to be dragged down to Raymond’s level?
Even with this criticism Natural Selection is a fresh and original story that does well in avoiding any stereotypical christian jokes and characterization.
[starreview tpl=16 size='30']
NATURAL SELECTION IS BEING SHOWN AT LONDON FILM FESTIVAL AS PART OF THE WORLD CINEMA SEGMENT ON 20TH AND 22ND OCTOBER
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