Directed by: #MarkOxtoby
Mark Oxtoby’s latest piece is a sobering exploration of the dark and sordid world of child #trafficking in the UK. And whilst this is a difficult subject to broach, Oxtoby has managed it with a believable and deferential finesse.
Schoolteacher Amy Parker’s date with old-friend Yarick begins well and the two seem to be getting along. But the night soon takes a sinister turn when Yarick spikes her drink. After collapsing in the pub, Yarick and his step-brother Yanis – who had been waiting and watching the couple throughout the night – hurry in and whisk her away. Awakening in unfamiliar surroundings, Amy is confronted by Marek, Yarick’s uncle; who gives her an ultimatum: help him get an 11-year old girl to talk, so she can be sold to an impatient client, or he’ll kill her parents.
The movie’s strength lies firmly in the believability of its characters and their actions. This is the result of very well-written characters, a near-perfect script and some damn fine acting to boot.
Lauren Logan leads us through the film with a marvellous portrayal of the grounded and protective Amy, and Dan Krikler gives a solid performance as Yarick; a man perpetually in contention with his conscience and the family he can’t escape. Which brings us to Yarick’s uncle, Marek. A Mafia-esque crime-lord, whose seemingly benign facade and calm demeanour belie his abominable nature. So perfect is the casting here, it’s difficult to imagine anyone other than Charles Daish in the role. And last but not least is young Lily Oxtoby as Bethany, in an incredibly confident first screen outing. In fact, Oxtoby has managed to show she has great potential, in spite of the relatively little screen-time she’s given and limited dialogue the story allows her.
The film’s greatest asset is the efficiency of its writing: the script, characters and screenplay have all been produced to a high-standard and showcase the talents of writing duo, Dawn Buckland and Mark Oxtoby. Indeed, Buckland and Oxtoby should be fully commended for writing both a narrative and characters which remain firmly grounded in reality. And it’s this sense of gritty realism which #JonBourne’s excellent and understated score really drives home with its soft and moody ambience.
With the recent high-profile cases of sex #trafficking in the news, it's easy to imagine not everyone will appreciate the film's direct and no-nonsense approach. However, I feel the filmmakers have done an incredible job of tiptoeing that fine line between acceptability and crass opportunism with sincere intentions and dexterity. With the film's down-to-earth approach ensuring it doesn't fall into the trap of becoming some overripe Hollywood thriller (except, perhaps, for that odd last 10 seconds), Blood Means Nothing is a terrific start to a new year of filmmaking.