Published on July 4th, 2017 | by Allan Brown2
EIFF 2017: Romans Review
Movie Review: Romans (2017)
UK Release Date: TBC
Running Time:91 minutes
Director: Ludwig Shammasian, Paul Shammasian
Writers: Geoff Thompson
Cast: Orlando Bloom, Anne Reid, Janet Montgomery, Alex Ferns, Charlie Creed-Miles
In 2015 directors Paul and Ludwig Shammasian brought their monochrome masterpiece The Pyramid Texts to the 69th Edinburgh International Film Festival. The feature quickly resonated with audiences, critics and juror members alike, and went on to win the unshakable James Cosmo the award for best performance in a British feature. This year the filmmakers along with writer Geoff Thompson returned to the EIFF to present their courageous and much anticipated follow up, Romans.
At the centre of the story is Malky (Orlando Bloom), a young working class man who is ravaged and tormented by the ghosts of his past. When tasked with the demolition of his local church where he attended as a child, crushing memories of sexual abuse at the hands of his priest (James Smillie) coming rushing back. This prompts and intensifies a catalogue of self destructive behaviour in the form of abuse – both physical and emotional, to himself and anyone close. He is an empty shell, emotionally vacant and sexually distant. His pain is deep seeded and his rage is palpable, and although his path to salvation is at first unclear, his trust in another (Charlie Creed Miles) may hold the answer.
Romans see’s the director’s third collaboration with writer Geoff Thompson to which there is clearly is a great deal of trust and respect. This is key as Romans is, in-part, based on Thompson’s own experience of sexual abuse as a child by an adult. The emotional torment that has naturally shaped his adult life and subsequent road to forgiveness he granted his abuser, makes Romans all the more powerful and resonant as a story and film.
Make no mistake, Romans is a challenging and extremely hard hitting 91 minutes to behold – as it should be. The Shammasian’s recognise the responsibility and sensitivity they have around telling such a story, and their stripped back approach without any bells, whistles or sensationalised drama is another key factor to the films emotional impact. This is a character study in the very REAL sense. The camera placement gives Bloom no space to hide and often with little to play off, as he delivers earth shattering monologues and explosive dialogue exchanges with friends and loved ones as he attempts to sever the cord of emotional connection. These moments give us a glimpse into the characters soul, and although his outburst are often frenzied and violent, Bloom teases enough through the anger and bitterness to show the complexities in the character. He is a ghost in his own skin, frightened, disconnected, vulnerable and utterly alone, as he navigates through life numb to all.
The director’s skilful yet subtle use of symbolism throughout the picture – whether its Malky’s destruction of the church itself or the carrying of the cross, that are powerful iconic metaphors that beautifully express the deep seeded anguish and resentment he carries with him.
Malky is an intense and demanding role for any actor which commands a great deal of courage. Recognising this and leaving his movie star credentials at the door, Bloom delivers with utter grit and honesty in a soul barring performance that is undoubtedly the landmark of his acting career.
The supporting cast which include; Alex Ferns, Anne Reid, Charlie Creed Miles and Janet Montgomery all do a wonderful job in playing juxtaposition to Malky character. They are frequently isolated and upset by his increasingly frantic behaviour, but it’s their resilience and tireless attempts to reach and connect with him that deliver some of the most heart-breaking moments in the film.
Summary: A challenging subject that is handled with the grit, honesty and compassion it deserves, whilst anchored by a stunning career defining performance.