A theatrical whodunit set in London’s West End in the 1950s with a delightful ensemble cast, See How They Run is a comedy drama that draws you along for an entertaining ride rather that setting up a particularly compelling mystery for the viewer to solve as an active participant. Gleefully self-referential with its setting during the initial run of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap and machinations to adapt the play into a movie, it provides light satire of both the theatre and film industries. The ending is structurally foreshadowed without revealling the killer, but having the culprit ultimately reveal themselves unprompted is rarely satisfying. The journey is enjoyable, however, largely due to Mark Chappell’s deftly paced and witty script. Saoirse Ronan stands out as the enthusiastic but inexperienced constable, jumping to conclusions each time a suspect emerges. The cinematography juxtaposes the artificial opulence of the theatre with drab reality of the streets outside, Jamie Ramsey also being responsible for Living‘s recent depiction of period London. Brief split screen cuts are frequently deployed — used stylistically rather than for any narrative purpose — and the sudden changes to the aspect ratio can be jarring, feeling somewhat cartoonish. It is unlikely to be remembered beyond the end of the year, but See How They Run is a droll diversion despite its weaknesses as a whodunit.
“Beguiling, aren’t you?” Kate is asked early on, and that is an apt description for True Things, with its exclusively female perspective exploring the heady and unsettling experience of being derailed by a toxic relationship. Director Harry Wootliff’s approach is constructed around subjectivism, so we learn very little about Kate’s ex-con lover, only identified as “Blond”. The audience is likely more primed now than when the book was released in 2010 immediately to recognise Blond’s manipulative gaslighting, but Kate is not presented a victim — she has agency in choosing to stay and to pull away, and we know her perspective is unreliable as she uses him to escape her own frustrations. This is clearest as we watch her dance uninhibited in a Spanish nightclub, dancing only for herself, and so we see the dancefloor deserted. Early on, it is achieved through editing, with a week vanishing suddenly since Kate’s life is stagnant when separated from Blond, which is why she finds herself returning to him. Its depiction of female lust is appropriately devoid of the male gaze — both the director and cinematographer are women — instead capturing subjectively intimate moments. Shot in the Academy ratio, the close-cropped square frame is at first claustrophobic but its shifting focus reflects Kate’s own headspace, without the distraction of elements in the wider frame. True Things contains a multitude of wonderful subtleties, carried by Ruth Wilson’s understated realism, which makes its lack of substance all the more frustrating. Wootliff plainly wants the viewer to insert their own experiences but that makes what is actually present more ephemeral.
Neil Gaiman’s short story about adolescent insecurity, with a literal approach to the alien nature of the opposite sex, does not obviously lend itself to a feature-length film. Mitchell’s film draws out every theme available in the story, straddling disparate genres as he presents the 1970s punk scene, a coming-of-age tale about individuality, alien tourism, and a sweet love story. Elle Fanning (still 17 at the time of filming) delivers wonderfully as an alien driven to rebel and experience the world. However, the film’s erratic nature will prove highly divisive. Whether you enjoy the experience will be clear from the titular house party early in the film: either you can embrace its weirdness or it will send you running for the comfort of something saner and more coherent.