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The Party

Older Rusters and readers may remember The Wednesday Play an often obscure dramatic venture into the avant garde on BBC. I felt the same slightly bored detachment that I experienced watching it as I did  during The Party. This might be because it was filmed in black and white and set in the confined  location of a house in North London. Despite its short length of 71 minutes there were longeur moments but these were redeemed for me by the superb performance of Kristin Scott Thomas (Janet) and a very surprising twist right at the end.

Kristin Scott Thomas plays a politician promoted to Shadow Health Minister and gives a dinner party to celebrate. The guests are April (Patricia Clarkson), an irritating know-all who is given the funniest lines, her partner a loathsome life coach Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), an equally unattractive young financier Tom (Cillian Murphy) who arrives with a pistol and immediately goes to the toilet to do a line of coke and a lesbian couple, the younger partner Jinny (Emily Mortimer) of which is giving birth to triplets.

However the central relationship is between Janet and Bill (Tim Spall) who announces during the party he has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Billed as a political comedy, it’s more about the fluidity and diversity of contemporary relationships and fidelity with some added humour and discussion of private health care.

The film opens with Janet in the kitchen mainly on her mobile, often to her lover, and Bill sitting with a vacuous expression in a armchair. Sparks fly at the dinner party but it failed to engage me.

However I did admire the surprise of the final shot – in every sense.

Sally Potter, an esteemed independent, wrote and directed the film. The same screenwriter and director can result in a tighter end product. Judging by a half empty movie theatre on a blustery Saturday evening it does not look like a commercial success. The audience did laugh on occasion but the main emotion was stupefaction at the ending when they remained transfixed in their seats right through the final credits.

About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts