Written & Directed by: #JamieNoel
Film Review by: #ChrisBuick
In the aftermath of a brutal stabbing back home in Gillingham, Parnell (Ward) and his mother Maggie (Baker) flee across the channel to the French countryside seeking refuge from those seeking retribution, crashing head on into the once peaceful lives of his estranged sister Esme (Saleh), her boyfriend Alfie (Jake Phillips Head) and his father Bill (Vivash), bringing with them a past, present and future filled with dark secrets and consequences.
Made in less than two weeks and on the most threadbare of budgets, Jamie Noel’s (writer, director, cinematographer, editor, chef?) accomplished and tense 2019 drama Lie Low is a real achievement for his first feature outing. Visually, Lie Low is an almost perfect delight for the eyes, whether it’s the dark and sinister tones of Parnell’s council estate hunting grounds or the mouth-watering vistas of the French countryside, the family’s ugly situation is always beautifully juxtaposed against the stunning visuals Noel spoils us with, the film itself lit, framed, edited and shot with such commendable care and precision from the very beginning to the very end, the film’s final sequence in particular a perfect storm of all these elements.
The writing at times also manages to reach these same dizzying heights. Sparing us (thankfully) with the unnecessary details of the gruesome act itself, Noel instead decides to drop us straight into the aftermath of the matter, focusing on the ensuing fallout Parnell and his family find themselves facing, establishing the dysfunctional dynamics of this family unit early on but subsequently drip-feeding us his world as slowly as he sees fit allowing the story to bubble away nicely and reveal itself to us when its good and ready.
However, either due to the delivery of the lines or by simply trying to be too clever or not clever enough, there are moments particularly in the dialogue where the writing does unfortunately fall rather flat, at times even simply resorting to a cacophonous abundance of swearing rather than trying to present itself in a more creative way. And while it doesn’t seem we are necessarily being asked to sympathise with Parnell per se, the film never goes out the way to condemn its subject matter as it probably should, overall resulting in a script of fluctuating highs and lows.
The performances seem to follow a similar pattern. The two leads of Parnell and Esme land on opposite sides of the spectrum, with the supporting players all landing somewhere in the middle in terms of achievement. Ward’s Parnell is complex, layered and full of nuance, allowing us to buy everything he puts forward. However Saleh, while doing all she can to put in a decent performance herself, honestly appears to have simply been miscast. We are meant to believe Esme is the authoritative voice in her unique little triangle with Alfie and Bill, as well as being the older sister and the person to hold this whole mess together, but Saleh’s obvious youth and slightly melodramatic attempts at trying to assert that desired dominance in certain scenes instead means Esme ultimately fails to exude any semblance of authority.
If a bit more time and care had gone into fine-tuning the writing and characters as had been put in the directing and editing, Lie Low might have really sang. But what has been done here on an incredibly lean budget and equally lean timeframe is utterly commendable and Lie Low certainly makes for a tense and tantalising ninety minutes well worth watching.
Lie Low is available to watch now on Amazon Prime Video. Watch the trailer below: