Directed by: #AndrewDeBurgh
As Michael Mann’s Heat showed us, a simple conversation between two interesting characters can sizzle on the biggest of screens. If the dialogue crackles with tension and subtext, with the right editing and powerhouse performances, these scenes can say so much with so little.
So it’s a shame to report that Andrew De Burgh’s The Bestowal — essentially stitching together three portentous discourses between a depressed businessman and an angel of death —features precisely none of these things, and is instead more interested in examining the precise contents of its own navel ad nauseum.
At the forefront of The Bestowal’s (a dull, pretentious title from the off) cinematic problems is its truly woeful script and its dead-weight dialogue. Accepting the fact that one of those we see on screen is a supernatural being, neither of our leads ever even attempt to talk as actual human beings, instead spouting unbearably self-important thesaurus-bothering philosophical nonsense that sound more like two A Level students discussing their essays too loudly in the corner of a pub. Lines like “It’s the spirituality you’ve been endowed with…as a result, you’ve forgone the aging process” that fill every second of screen time leave the film feeling frigid and means that we, as an audience, have nothing to cling onto or care about.
It’s impossible to tell if Brittan and Bhattacharya are any good as performers, as they are given nothing interesting to work with.
Worse still, these conversations never go anywhere. The first, where we meet our businessman on the verge of suicide, gets stuck in a time loop, going back to the evils of corporate greed and our central character’s hypocrisy: fine if we’re with these people for four of five minutes, but this nonsense lumbers on for well over half an hour. The second section is even worse, talking of days of debate with the Dalai Lama and helping the poor of the third world. It’s like that try-hard humble-bragger you know that you blocked on Instagram after they wouldn’t stop wanging on about their enlightenment.
One of the most irritating aspects of genre cinema is when a director clearly thinks he’s above its trappings and so can elevate it to higher ground and deliver something special. It seems De Burgh that De Burgh thinks this is what he is doing with science fiction, but even with the film’s intellectualising and showing off, he abjectly fails to say anything more than what you might find on an inspirational cat poster. It might be nice to look at for a few seconds, but no one wants to spend an hour and a half looking at a wall.