“The only way is down”
Director: Carol Morley
Cast: Maxine Peak, Marjorie Yates, Joe Dempsie
Synopsis: A hotel. A cliff. Six lost people, looking for something, or looking to lose themselves.
Edge, a dour little independent movie was filmed in 2010 but didn‘t go on general release until 2012, and one can’t help feeling it would have remained on the shelf had it not been for writer and director Carol Morley’s subsequent critical success with the docu-drama Dreams of a Life (2011). That’s not to say Edge is without merit, but so determinedly gloomy is its mood that its commercial viability is virtually nil.
Edge focuses on the staff and guests at a dilapidated hotel situated on a bleak cliff edge in Dover, a location that serves as a rather obvious metaphor for the state of mind of many of the movie’s characters – there are only eight of them, but two try to commit suicide in separate incidents, one is emotionally damaged after being sexually abused, one is a washed-up ’never-has-been’ musician, one is a kleptomaniac, and one is grieving the death of his father (yet another suicide). The film’s main strand focuses on Ellie (Maxine Peake), a troubled woman haunted by the possibility that she might have pushed her childhood friend off the cliff’s edge many years before. Ellie carries a scrapbook of press cuttings about the incident, and repeatedly phones the dead girl’s mother to try and apologise. She’s befriended by Glen, (Paul Hilton), the down on his luck musician (and possibly the only man in Britain under 40 to wear long johns) who has come to the Cliff Edge hotel in search of inspiration. Meanwhile, Philip (Joe Dempsie) and Sophie (Nichola Burley) are meeting for the first time after connecting on the internet. The final guest is Wendy (Marjorie Yates), an older woman intent on committing suicide but who is prevented from doing so by an immigrant maid (Anna Wendzikowska) who has a penchant for rifling through guests belongings.
Occasionally, these strands intertwine, but for the most part they’re played out as separate duologues with varying success. Sophie’s story is perhaps the most intriguing, and could have perhaps benefited from more screen time at the cost of the dreary and overwrought melodrama of Ellie’s situation. The acting of all involved is first class, with particular credit going to Nichola Burley who is entirely believable as the troubled Sophie, who has an ulterior motive for luring the naive Philip to the hotel.
Unfortunately, the quality of the performances can do little to overcome the sheer misery and gloom that is thrust upon the audience with the regular insistence of the grey waves that lap upon the shore beneath the hotel, and the possibility of such a group of troubled individuals converging on one hotel in the off-season strains credibility almost as much as the painfully contrived finale. While Carol Morley is clearly a talent to be watched, she may look back on this, her first narrative film, as part of her learning curve and little more.