23 Mar 2022
Eleanor Shaw, Eva Bradley-Williams, Declan Spaine
A gossip is often considered to be harmless. Usually, it’s an older woman or an auntie who has nothing to do with their spare time. Bored, they spend their time speculating on other people’s marriages, money and motivations. Gossip is seldom considered to come from a place of hurt. Yet the opposite is often true. Trust thins out and disintegrates if two friends gossip about each other, creating a toxic storm.
We know a lot about Kirsty (Eleanor Shaw) before she speaks. While she reads a volume of Sylvia Plath’s poems, gifted to her for her birthday by her best friend Meesha (Eva Bradley-Williams), Jeremy Kyle blares on the TV. The curtains are drawn, and a thick level of cigarette smoke hangs still in the room. The coffee table is home to an over-stuffed ashtray and empty bottles of alcohol. Behind her, there is a drooping plant. With the careful attention paid to Kirsty’s home, the audience already knows her before she speaks. We’ve guessed that she is an emotionally fragile young woman. Meesha, on the other hand, is loud and abrasive. She’s probably the fun girl at a party, but right now she’s fed up that Kirsty has stood her up.
In a tragic comedy of errors, Meesha begins bitterly gossiping about Kirsty to their mutual friend, Tony (Declan Spaine), unaware that Kirsty is still on the end of the line and can hear each horrific sentence. However, both women are characterised so well, Meesha’s aggressive gossiping does not come from a place of boredom. Instead, she feels genuinely hurt by Kirsty’s perceived irresponsibility. While gossips can be easily stereotyped, actor Eva Bradley-Williams does not fall into that trap. Her gossiping Meesha burns with a misplaced sense of injustice. The pin drops when the audience realises that Kirsty has been privy to the entire conversation. In an excellent portrayal from Eleanor Shaw, you sense the sadness bubbling under the surface. This is really a woman brought to the brink. However, as the film reaches its climax, the script sways towards a moment of melodrama, which doesn’t quite gel with the rest of the film.
In comparison to Rolfin Nyhus’s comedy, Two Down, The Gossip serves us a slice of British social realism. Quietly heart-breaking, Nyhus explores a situation which is probably somewhat familiar to the audience. His characters, Kirsty and Meesha, have such an authenticity about them that you wouldn’t be surprised if you saw them in Margate.