IT IS IN US ALL Review: The Terrible Pain and Ecstasy of Grief
We can be forced to confront the most hidden parts of ourselves at the most terrible points in time. Perhaps that is the nature of such discoveries: only when we are laid bare by grief, by pain, by emotional exposure, do we find what we might have known was there, but was kept away to save us even greater pain. But that pain can also lead to ecstasy, and those emotions mixed together can be volatile.
UK actor and director Antonia Campbell-Hughes makes her feature debut with the quietly and deeply unsettling story of a man forced to confront pain, lies, and a haunting groqing ecstasy. It is In Us All is as much a mood piece as a story, with emotionals running high and consuming all those touched by a terrible moment in time.
Hamish (Cosmo Jarvis, Lady Macbeth) has come to Donegal to see to the estate of his late aunt, whom he never met. Perhaps not entirely focused on the lonely country drive, he ends up in a terrible car accident that leaves him injured, and a child dead. This event collides with Hamish learning more about his mother, in contradiction to what his distant and overbearing father (Claes Bang, The Northman) has led him to believe; Hamish finds himself drawn to this ghostly presence, as well as another other teenager, Evan (Rhys Mannion), who managed to escape from the accident physically unscathed.
Campbell-Hughes immediate immerses us in the strangeness of the world we will inhabit in this film: Hamish seems at once confident and ill at ease, with a certain brash rudeness in response to friendly chitchat putting him in a sullen mood, that almost seems reflected in the landscape he's driving across. This is not the bucolic Emerald Isle we're familiar with, but its more moody and mountainous north, a place seemingly devoid of life either human or otherwise, the definition of lonely and not quite, but nearly desolate. A place where an accident could happen and no one would discover it for hours.
We slowly learn that Hamish's mother committed suicide some time ago; that according to his father, she hated Ireland and never returned. And yet, the locals speak of her with reverance, and Hamish find a photo of himself as a child, with his mother and aunt, in the local countryside. As he tries to tend to his injuries alone, he tries also to find out what this place is to him, the place that raised his mother, and to which half of his soul might belong, even if he's only just discovering it.
Evan keeps coming around, offering to drive Hamish to the shops, inviting him to a night swim on a rocky beach, having Hamish join his teenage friends for an evening of drinking and dancing. There are hints of a possible sexual attraction, at first, but move a little deeper and its more two souls who find themselves joined in grief and guilt, finding an odd ecstatic state that comes with this sublime accumulation of emotion, when there is nothing to distract them. This sublime state forces Hamish out of his normally tightly controlled nature, a nature that it seems was forced upon him.
The cinematography finds this sublime state, expresses it in such sorrow that can feel how at once small this man and this boy must feel when they grief has both everywhere and nowhere to go. Jarvis's physicality feels almost like a that of a dancer, with expression even in the movement of his back muscles, every moment and nuance is felt across the screen he inhabits, as Hamish tries to tend to his physical injuries, when he can barely contain his emotional ones. This grey sky, brown land, eerie woods, raging sea, express so much and yet words feel impossible. All the characters are left with are tears and fists.
Campbell-Hughes is walking a line between narrative and experimental - perhaps a few more pieces of information would have helped, as often the air at which the characters, and the audience, are grasping is a little too uncertain to comprehend and interpret what we are seeing and hearing. But she also understands that there is a necessary uncertaintly in sublime grief and loneliness - we cannot always find answers, or even any answer. All there is, after tragedy, is to find an ecstasy to keep you alive.
It is In Us All will be available on VOD beginning Friday November 17th.
It Is in Us All
- Antonia Campbell-Hughes
- Antonia Campbell-Hughes
- Cosmo Jarvis
- Rhys Mannion
- Claes Bang