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Us Among The Stones

average rating is 3 out of 5


William Hemingway


Posted on:

Nov 5, 2022

Film Reviews
Us Among The Stones
Directed by:
D.R Hood
Written by:
D.R Hood
Laurence Fox, Anna Calder-Marshall, Raia Haidar, Oliver Cotton, Jethro Skinner

'Something nasty in the woodshed'


Writer/director D.R Hood's second feature, Us Among The Stones owes a lot to Stella Gibbon's darkly comic 1933 classic, and there's more than a touch of Cold Comfort Farm about the Dartmoor homestead in which this complex family drama is set. The walls keep memories as generations live, grow and die between them and ghosts of those who have gone before reach out from the past to mourn the same mistakes being made time and time again.


Marianne (Calder-Marshall), the matriarch, has called everyone together for her birthday. It's likely to be her last, she says, because she is dying, although nobody really knows just how much she's got left in her. She certainly manages to get up and about when the family start arriving, which leaves Owen (Fox), her eldest, feeling a little put out as his presence doesn't seem to produce in her the same effect.


Dropping into the fray are Danny (Skinner), Owen's freewheeling brother and the apparent favourite; their sister, Rose (Mika Simmons) and her child; Caroline (Haidar), Owen's estranged partner; Uncle Jack (Greg Hicks) – the Antichrist – with his two children from previous relationships and his newest wife, Anna (Sinead Matthews) who carries a baby around with her even though it appears to be just a doll; and let's not forget that Dad, Ricky (Cotton) and Uncle Brian (Bill Thomas) are also on hand to enrich the broth of the family dynamic.


There's a lot to catch up on with so many family members mingling, mixing and moving about. There's a lot of memory floating around too, though it's only making itself felt in snapshots, with old photographic stills merging in with Super 8 reels to provide backstory in impressions while new memories are made and framed alongside them. The effect of the photographs is strong, striking a note through days and years to find the image that represents the moment, and even though not much may be happening in the here and now of the characters' lives we are helped to understand their thoughts by reaching into their past with them.


By all accounts the cast of characters feel like a proper family as they bicker and hug and talk about gaps of distance and years. This has a lot to do with the quality of actors which Hood has brought together, most of whom have a strong background on the stage, and this works well within the setting as well as with the cross-purpose conversations which are being had. The most familiar face to the audience is most likely to be Laurence Fox, who filmed this before his recent outbursts that were splashed all over social media, but for anyone thinking they might be put off by this it should be made clear that this is not a Laurence Fox film – he's just in it – and he actually does a pretty good job along with everyone else.


Us Among The Stones is definitely D.R Hood's film and the direction and narrative are the strongest markers of an auteur at work. Annemarie Lean-Vercoe's cinematography lends a dreamy, summer of sun feel to the scenario but the magic of the movie remains with Hood. There's a unique feel to the way the story of these characters' lives is told which pays off in the end when the ninety minutes are over and you feel like you've lived a lifetime with them. For most there may not be enough going on in the foreground of the story to really keep them interested, but for anyone willing to stick around and invest in being part of someone else's family drama, there is some real cinematic wonder to be enjoyed. Just like any big family gathering though, you may have to tune out some of the voices to get through to what is true.

About the Film Critic
William Hemingway
William Hemingway
Indie Feature Film
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