Can a man with a dysfunctional character and the violent past have a good relationship with his son? Martin Radich’s second feature is a breathtaking thriller set in a remote location in the countryside of Norfolk. The intimate relationship of the father, who works as a mercenary, with his teenager son is suddenly disrupted by the arrival of the boy’s maternal grandparents. A huge revelation about the father’s past will shake the tranquil family to the core.
Norfolk offers a distinctive exploration of the relationship within a family, between a father and son. The director investigates not just the close bond between father and son but also the relationship and dynamic between two male characters. The very first scenes we see the unnamed boy (Barry Keoghan) trying trying to emulate his older man (Denis Ménochet), by following him around or engaging in absurd tasks, such putting a whole egg is his mouth. Being isolated from the rest of the world, the father is the only source of inspiration and influence for the adolescent. The communication with the outer world comes mostly through the various channels on the television.
The virtuosic camera work portrays highghlight well the intense and dramatic moments between father and son. Close-ups and medium close-ups reveal the frustration, anger and intensity of the characters, while a few wide shots emphasise the loneliness and isolation of the British countryside. The background is so minimalistic, that we lose sense of space and time, and the dreamlike soundscore adds to a sense of reverie. There are times when we wonder if what we see is part of the reality or part of a fantasy or dream. There are often blurred scenes and voices heard through tape recorder.
The director achieves to create an incredibly violent atmosphere, without showing a lot of graphic violence.
Radich reduces the dialogue to a very minimal level. We barely hear the protagonists talking; the facial expressions and looks convey all the messages and the state of the characters. The protagonists are outstanding: their taut and yet dynamic looks captivate the audience, and expose the frenetic state of the characters. The ritual dance of the father while he prepares for his next job (killing people as a mercenary) reveals his disillusion and madness.
Although the film is a dark drama of violence and brutality, there is a spark of hope. In contrast with the dull and cruel personality of the man, the revolutionary nature of the young adolescent is a source of inspiration and hope for a humane life.
Norfolk is out in cinemas on September 21st, and you can find out more information about it here.
Also, don’t forget to view the film trailer: