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Film Four Stars
Another surprise of the Glasgow Film Festival for me was the film Concussion. When I first went to see the film I wasn't sure what to expect, what I didn't expect was a cleverly written film that is more an allegory for the mid-life crisis and a look at long term relationships. The reason for the surprise is that the film is billed as a lesbian mother who has a bump on the head and ends up becoming a high class call girl for other women, focussing on the erotic aspects of the film more than anything else. To be honest I had thought that this might involve a number of dirty old men coming to see a film that, hopefully, it wouldn't become.

Although there were some dubious types in the cinema that day the film doesn't go near that description. The fact that Robin Weigert is playing the main character and Maggie Schiff a supporting one, bolstered my hopes for the film. Having seen them both in the excellent Sons of Anarchy television series and Weigert playing a fantastic role in the equally superb Deadwood my hopes for something much more were raised.

The film also won an award for the writer/director Stacie Passon in the Teddy Jury Award at the Berlin International Film Festival 2013 and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. All of which added up to far too many reasons not to miss this film.

Plot.pngLocke.jpgAfter a blow to the head, Abby decides she can't do it anymore. Her life just can't be only about the house, the kids, the wife, the suburban dream. She needs more: she needs to be Eleanor.

TheFilm.pngThe opening sequence with the spinning class and the rows of houses was an interesting way to present these people and it said pretty much everything we needed to know as an introduction. This is upper class suburbia, people who look after the kids, their houses and themselves in the gym while their partners are out working the nine to five.

The scenes following leap straight on from the aftermath of the incident that is going to lead to such change for Abby and we lead into her new beginning. What I particularly liked about this is that there's not a big song and dance made about the fact that they are a lesbian couple who have adopted, and really that has little significance to the story because this could be any couple.

More than that as a man I found it incredibly easy to relate to the underlying story here because it isn't actually about a lesbian couple, nor is it about high class call girls, nor even about sex. None of this is the actual story, it's about mid-life crisis. About a relationship and lifestyle becoming repetitive and passionless, about the fact that relationships are compromise and communication, and not so much about all the additional threads in the story.

That's not to say they aren't relevant for I thought the presentation of the marriage and relationship between the two women and their dual mothering of the son had a lot to say and for once it was presented from a completely different and intelligent perspective. We're brought right into the heart of their lives instead of looking from the outside as bigoted or blinkered onlookers judging them from the outset.

While the relatable mid-life crisis story does make the core of the film it's the way these other threads are presented to the audience that really make it stand out. It's a refreshing viewpoint that I've not often seen before.

There's one line that stands out for me which made me reflect upon a typically judgemental film or audience and that's when the school teacher refers to the holidays and asks how you refer to them. For a moment I thought the character and I were both thinking the same thing that the aging teacher was referring how "lesbians" refer to these holidays. Moments later we discover she meant something else entirely and that jolted me, helping me realise that this is a film about the reality of the relationship, not the judgemental or male led view.

Not only is about the mid-life crisis but also about the sexual awakening of the character and how she explores this, however I never took this away as the main message of the film. The leading character does change through her many relationships, and indeed they do all become relationships in some way rather than sexual transactions, but perhaps the biggest message here is that sex isn't dirty and evil, everyone does it and wants it in some form or another and it is a key ingredient in any relationship.

Okay, the film is erotic and sensual at times but I have to say that's a lot less than some people have made out. It does have some moments of nudity and some erotic scenes of two women together, but it never goes too far and reflects sensual more than erotic. None of these scenes detracted from the story or the characters, they never took over the film for titillation, and that again is the mark of the reality of the story.

Another sign of just that is the portrayal of her as a high-class call girl. Again there's no outside judgement, there's an insider's view. We're taken into her new life and shown it as it happens. Of course there are seedier and negative sides and I am by no means saying that this is really what happens, but we are forever seeing that view and never another side. We do with this character and story.

Okay, enough analysis, let's get to some cinematic points.

Robin Weigert is fantastic in the film. She's believable and natural and I connected with her character and her situation early on. She gives a subtle performance that makes you always watch her, drawing your eyes to her face, and I loved that.

She's helped by the way the film is directed as the camera draws us to the characters presenting images that engage us, and no I don't mean the sex scenes although shots like the bed scene used in the poster is one such moment, equally so is the shot of Weigert's face as she watches her son's play. There's a lot of storytelling visually in the film as well as through the dialogue, and the dialogue is equally as good.

Weigert's character of Abby does have some fantastic lines and moments that show off the strong script as well as Robin Weigert's acting talent - you would clearly recognise this if you had seen any of her in her Deadwood role as Calamity Jane.

The script is very well written by writer and director Stacie Passon with moments that are naturally funny, extremely touching, sad and can cause much reflection within the audience.

There were some issues though such as I felt that it overly signalled the forgetting of the children and when Abby's partner starts a fuss about her never liking anything it seemed to come from nowhere. That said perhaps it's meant as a reflection of the stored up frustrations in such a stayed relationship.

Some moments stand out for me such as when the two ladies begin to seduce each other on the bed and the off-hand comment regarding the tiling leads us to the post-coital scene. Not only does it explain much about the character and the relationship but it also drives a laugh from the audience too. I loved the way this was written and performed and is another demonstration of how the film can be related to by a wide audience.

The ending is another equally well written part. It provides a sad but poignant ending which should be in keeping with the reality of relationships and the compromises people have to make, yet at the same time there's still the feeling that will make you wonder whether it's Abby or Evelyn who are going to win out and it leaves you with some doubts.

Overall.pngConcussion was another big surprise for me at the Glasgow Film Festival 2014 and provided for an intelligent and adult story which connects with all relationship types. While there is a story here about a woman rediscovering her sexuality, I was drawn to the story through the idea of mid-life crisis and about the reality of long-term relationships and marriages.

I loved the intelligence of the script and writing and the fact that we were taken into this woman's world without any judgement or stayed views. Don't be fooled by the talk of erotic film, this isn't that kind of movie.

Robin Weigert delivers a fantastic performance that is highlighted by the performer focussed direction, it's a performance she should be proud of.

With a script and performances that are natural and subtle, offering comedy and intelligent insight, Concussion is a film that I'd recommend watching.

Standard Trailer:

"Red Band" Trailer, i.e. features some breast shots and eroticism that will have religious censors tearing their own eyes out but won't have any effect on sane adults:

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