Directed by: #DominicMorgan
Written by: #DominicMorgan
Jenny (Clarke) is having a bit of a rough time of it. She's heavily pregnant and her contractions have just started. Her fiance is notoriously unreliable and is currently nowhere to be found, so now she has no-one else to fall back on to help her get to the hospital but her useless alcoholic father (Jakeman). It's four in the morning however, so hopefully he's as sober as can be as he plays chauffeur to Jenny and her unborn baby. Cue a difficult car journey where family histories will inevitably be brought up and old wounds reopened.
Throughout the mini road-trip we explore more difficult backstory to fatten out the deep tragedy of Jenny's life. Not only is her father's alcoholism laid bare but we learn that her mother is suffering from dementia and has been placed in a care home, as well as the shock reveal that Jenny has already lost a previous baby and subsequently tried to commit suicide. Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse for Jenny, her arguments with her father become too much to bear and she lashes out at him, causing a devastating car crash that leaves them both broken and remorseful.
Faith, therefore, is a chamber piece in the form of a two act play where first we get to know the characters and are led through their identities and their backstories; then we get to see the literal fallout of their clash of characters and watch as they try to piece their relationship back together – if that's at all possible. The supposed tension of the film then comes from whether the two leads can put their differences aside and work together long enough in order to get one, or the other, or both, or all three of them, out of the car alive by the time the curtains close.
Okay, so the thing is that Locke (2013) was at best a three star film. It had a budget of around two million pounds and starred one of the best actor's of his generation, Tom Hardy. It had a tight script, was expertly shot, used space and frame and light very effectively and even had old Tom showing off his softest 'alright me-boyo' accent. Plaudits were forthcoming for the acting and writing but no major awards were gained. Writer/director Steven Knight understood it for what it was, an interesting experiment that was well executed, and found he had achieved the best cinematic production possible for a one-man play in a car. In contrast the writer/director of Faith, Dominic 'd b' Morgan, has a seeming disconnect with his expectation of his movie and its actuality.
Of his film, Morgan has described it as, “the most claustrophobic cinematic experience ever”. It's not. The Shining is more claustrophobic than this; Das Boot is more claustrophobic than this; Captain Phillips is more claustrophobic than this; The Poseidon Adventure, Shallow Grave, Alien, Misery, hell even Die Hard are all more claustrophobic than this. I haven't seen Panic Room or Buried – but I'll bet they're more claustrophobic than this.
Unfortunately for Morgan the feeling you engender in your audience isn't to do with how small a space your story takes place in, it's all to do with the investment they have in your characters; how likeable, well drawn and relatable they are, as well as the decisions and actions they take (or have taken previously off-screen) that show their true character and drive. Sadly this is something that is largely lacking in Faith's script.
In the first forty-five minutes Jenny and her father do their best to drop tidbits of expository information nonchalantly into their conversations to make things appear seemingly natural. However, most of it comes across as guilt driven soliloquising while one character drops a lot of F-bombs and one keeps telling the other to shut up. Any attempts at flashbacks are fleeting and static and the character of the mother, who is somewhat mentioned in the dialogue, doesn't appear on screen until more than half-way through – and only then as an odd horror segment. The sound recording in the car doesn't help either as it's often hard to follow what's being said and none of the boyfriend's dialogue over the phone is intelligible at all.
There are also some glaring inconsistencies in the narrative that detract from the realism of the piece and therefore the investment an audience member is willing to give:
Seatbelts; first they're not wearing them, then they are – Hospital; where is it? They've been driving for forty-five minutes, from a built up area, and somehow they're out in the middle of nowhere when they crash – Ambulance; if your dad is such a bad choice why not get an ambulance to take you to hospital? - The crash; nobody sees it even though there are headlights and tail-lights in almost every single shot where we can see outside of the car – Mobile phone; was in the car, now suddenly after the crash is the only thing not in the car – Branch; was obviously outside of the car but now is suddenly inside the car (unbroken) and inside your father – Safety first; trying to cut the branch away with a shard of broken glass, classic horror trope bad idea – Broken door window; broken and sharp but not smashed (like all tempered glass car windows do), but either way kick it out with your good leg or pull out a headrest and use the metal pole to do it – 999 operator; offering congratulations and expressing joy at the news Jenny is pregnant despite already having heard she's been in a serious car crash.
Artistic licence or not, these errors in storytelling might be disappointing each on their own but all together they add up to a failure of continuity and therefore no matter how bad the situation gets for the characters it's hard to feel any sort of emotional connection to the events on screen.
Morgan himself has said that, “Good films begin with great stories. A great premise, realistic, well developed characters and a rollercoaster ride of emotion where you feel wrung dry at the end.” Which makes it all the more disappointing that he hasn't achieved that in his debut feature. The story and the premise are indeed good, as are the themes explored all the way through to the denouement; however he never quite manages to make his characters or scenario realistic or well developed and so the rollercoaster of emotion ends up more akin to a lazy river ride, no matter how hard his actors try to deliver the material (and they do try very hard).
Thankfully though, Morgan and his production company and his uniquely formed Underdog Crew, made up of people who have battled adversity and difficulties such as autism and PTSD in their lives, are not going to stop there. Their journey through film is not so much an enterprise as an ideology, with profits from this and future productions being shared with the Sick Children's Trust and Dementia UK, both of which are dear to Morgan's heart. What's being produced here, more than anything, is a community with shared beliefs and aspirations, and with Morgan already having penned at least four other works they're not going to be short of material for some time to come.
Hopefully Faith was something of a training ground for Morgan and his team, and they will all have learned and taken away something from the process so that they can come back better and stronger the next time – which is something they fully deserve to do.