Directed by Nicholas Arnold
“The ugly duckling”
Written By Jack Bottomley
When we look at Hollywood, we sometimes find issues and messages watered down to allow a movie mainstream profitability. In many ways this is why it is often up to a brave director or an independent source to generally tell stories- warts and all. However much can still get lost in the translation to screen. Plus, in this age of multimedia a lot can get screwed up or messed about with but one plus point (for film anyway) has been the formation of crowd funding campaigns and projects being allowed to flourish more easily from more independent sources. And here is one such project, in this hard-hitting and (by film’s end) utterly harrowing tale of depressive states and how a lack of help can lead to people being engulfed by darkness.
The film sees a father, Thomas (Richard Roy Sutton), coping with long-standing issues stemming from childhood and sinking into depressive moods as a result of regular nightmares. And more pressure comes in the shape of his five-year-old son William (Toby Bisson), who needs his attention. However some solace may lie in an understanding hypnotherapist, Peter (Robert Lawton), who is recommended by a friend. Still, will Thomas choose to face his demons, or let them overpower him? William’s Lullaby opens with the words “For Bob” and after watching writer/director Nicholas Arnold’s film play out, it is easy to see a heartfelt and personal motivation to this occasionally poignant tale.
William’s Lullaby tackles a very persistent issue of depression and it’s effects and is a film likely to strike a chord with many viewers. The budgetary constraints don’t prove too much an issue, despite the occasional home video vibe but if Arnold’s film does have one flaw it is the length. At just shy of 2 hours, the film is a touch overlong and come the end, not the easiest film to watch. That being said the naturalistic central performance by Richard Roy Sutton is impressive enough to keep you watching this troubled parent’s tragic story play out. In many ways Thomas is a hard character to relate to but that is, in essence, the point as he sinks into his moods, he changes and the film captures that with flair.
Although an even better aspect is how the film sometimes flips to his son’s viewpoint and while there is familiar ground trodden in the coverage of his school life, the film successfully captures the devastating effects of mental illness on a family. Young Toby Bisson gives a believable performance and as William, is the heart to Arnold’s film. Although the real scene stealer is the late Robert Lawton, who gives an excellent and endearing performance as the skilful hypnotherapist Peter, who is among the film’s best characters.
William’s Lullaby is often melancholy and filled with gravitas and ends on a truly hard to watch note but it tells an urgent tale of mental illness. Nicholas Arnold directs with soul and even if the film is too long and sometimes too obsessed with it’s contemplative pacing and dream-like sequences, this is still an admirable, no holds barred, tackling of a very real and constantly more relevant issue in society. The film associates the classic story of the ugly duckling with this issue too and is another example of how budget in no way extinguishes the fires of a wilful director and crew.