SXSW 2022: It Is in Us All – Formal Construction With No Foundation

It is in us all.

A line as nebulous and cryptic written here as it is presented in the film that builds its identity around it, this idea of some mysterious and unspoken thing that exists within us all. The viewer will spend the runtime wondering just what “it” is, trying to peer through the rolling fog and cold air of Donegal, Ireland, in search of what the movie may be building towards. The world of the film begs to be dissected and examined, all so slight and imperceptible, tiny motions creeping into the frame and dread slowly building, just achingly waiting for it all to click over and explode in a final moment where it all collides and coalesces, providing the catharsis and clarity that it has all been pleading to conclude with.

Hamish Considine (Cosmo Jarvis) returns to his ancestral land, where his mother was born and where his aunt died. Inheriting his aunt’s home and hoping to discover some universal truth about his existence and his place within his family, he makes his way to the isolated countryside, along the way being generally abrasive and dislikable to everyone he encounters, a rocky start for a character whose journey we hope to understand and connect to. It’s unclear where any of it comes from, ostensibly not quite borne of grief nor of mistreatment, instead just Considine’s apparent demeanor, to be so distastefully aggressive and arrogant to anyone he speaks to with his husky and monotonous drawl.

Nothing is quite so easy, of course, as Considine finds himself in a car collision while still on his way to his destination, soon hospitalized with a bruised body and a broken arm. He learns the collision involved two teenagers in another car, one who was killed, a fact that will now plague him and begin to slowly dissolve his psyche. A haunting plague that only worsens as the vehicle’s other occupant, Evan (Rhys Mannion) begins to befriend Hamish and something even more sinister begins to simmer in the background, a harsh static undercurrent that seems to always be right beneath the surface of Evan’s cold stare. It’s all there, these standard building blocks for a heavily contemporary and perfectly acceptable psychological thriller, one that winds tension and tears at the nerves, trying to move towards an explosive climax.

It’s all hollow here. Utterly meaningless and devoid of any coherence or sense, just tension for tension’s sake within a formally constructed frame, architecturally structured cinematography and just the right amount of expected rolling landscapes, dimly lit and edging closer to the crashing waves along the rocky shore as it moves through the lush Irish country. It pulls from everything that came before it, seemingly without understanding the function of any of its inspiration, just facile and flat imagery that projects unease and discomfort without earning it. Evan becomes increasingly weird and unsettling, Hamish begins to unravel as Evan places more and more pressure on him for the tragic death of his friend, it spirals out of control as threads of Hamish’s past are woven through, bread crumbs that speak to his mother’s relationship with her home town and her sister’s existence within it.

Maybe there’s something to be said for the way it’s all constructed, something to be found within the myriad of threaded lines, something to be explored as it all burns down in its aggressive climax. Yet it is not sold, not earned, not built properly to be able to craft something as stunning as it consistently implies it will. Ultimately it fizzles, a hopeless journey of ineffective nonsense with an abhorrently bland lead performance to take the wheel and steer any potential direction directly into the murky depths below. Nobody to provide intrigue or interest, nobody with any level of clear or definable emotion, often nobody with motivation or even a clear enough form to be called a character. By the end, though it may attempt to extract some freeing catharsis by finally spewing that titular line, it doesn’t even matter what “it” really is. It is in us all, and it might as well be water, just a nondescript liquid that will leave the memory as soon as it is consumed.

3/10

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Film on the brain and neon in my veins.

Film critic, rad dude, and enthusiast of all things.

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