Dec 3, 2023
Isla (Tobi) Roebig, Imani Preyor, Matthew Barningham, Louise Rankin
As we grow older it is not uncommon for our hobbies and pastimes to suddenly become uninteresting and sometimes rather alienating. This is especially true during youth, when children will go from hobby to hobby as their developing brain seeks to try new things in order to discover which generates the most happiness. Sometimes we just simply lose interest, in other cases it might be a lack of time, or perhaps significant upheaval in life or the influence of a particular person. The distaste felt by the protagonist of Megan McRitchie’s ‘Echappé’ towards their former passion stems from all of these things, as demonstrated in a frustratingly jarring way in the film.
‘Echappé’ follows Sylvie, played by Isla (Tobi) Roebig, as they return to their old ballet school, the source of both triumph and anguish, in order to watch a friend’s, Lily’s (played by Imani Preyor) performance. Sylvie has made the leap from what we presume to be a small town dance school to London, where they have had an audition at the Royal - although they didn’t receive the prestigious gig - but remains searching for work despite their best efforts to find a job. Sylvie is tired of the endless pressures placed upon themselves through their upbringing in ballet, and searching for a release, through the flashing strobe lights of the club is clearly doing them no favours either.
You sense that Sylvie has returned for a greater reason than simply to watch their old friends performance, rather, that they have returned in order to evoke some profound decision in order to decide the next steps in their life, and whether or not to continue pursuing the ballet dream. An old tape recording shows a young Sylvie (Louise Rankin) dancing under the instruction of their strict, pushy coach Steven (Matthew Barningham), and this is interwoven with the present day as Sylvie dances in her old studio, only to be interrupted by Steven, cynical as ever, who provides yet more scathing words on their back. Sylvie must reckon with their past in order to decide their future, and their return to their dance school, the source of both joy and struggle, is, in their mind at least, critical to deciding whether or not they have the passion to pursue a career in dance anymore.
All this is directed with poise and precision by Megan McRitchie, whose framing of the film and all its events create tension even when the script, also written by McRitchie, fails to provide any. It is jarring how contrasting the directing and writing is - with the direction suggesting entertainment and talent of the highest order, whilst the script is stilted in its dialogue, leaving the actors with little to work with or make any positive impression with. Each interaction between characters feels forced and unbelievable, and thus it is difficult to invest in Sylvie’s pursuit of an answer for their future, as so much of this rests on their interactions and discussions with those around them.
Whilst Megan McRitchie’s directing is of a standout quality, the pieces that surround this are lacklustre, and as a result ‘Echappé’ ultimately disappoints, feeling incredibly turgid throughout.