Review: Edge (2010)

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Cast: Maxine Peake, Marjory Yates, Joe Dempsie
Director: Carol Morley
Country: UK
Genre: Drama
Official Trailer: Here


Editor’s Note: Edge is now available on iTunes and Region 2 DVD

It’s not simply because of his recent passing that the legacy of Andrew Sarris comes flooding to mind at the thought of Edge, Carol Morley’s 2010 drama film released only this year in the wake of her documentary success with the terrific Dreams of a Life (one of the best, and sadly still underseen, films of the year to date). Sarris’ famous championing of the auteur theory’s merits ramifies directly upon analysis of Edge, in that—much like the wave of films crashed upon France when American distribution reopened in the aftermath of the Second World War and allowed for roughly contemporaneous viewings of several films by the same director—its unintentional proximity to Dreams of a Life’s release allows us to much more patently observe the evolution of Morley’s artistry and thematic concerns.

Despite an inescapable element of counterbalance to the respective pairings, what we have here is six characters defined beyond just their narrative functions, given a depth that—while obviously lesser in some—at least makes each feel more than plot points as with so many such ensemble pieces.

Set solely in and around a hotel with as much an allegorical presence as a physical one, Edge centres on the interlinking lives of six individuals who find themselves converging amidst the foggy, ethereal surroundings. There are Phillip and Sophie, young adults meeting for the first time having agreed to do so via a dating site; Ellie and Glen, a woman consumed by past guilt and the relentless optimist who seeks to comfort her; and Wendy, a depressed old woman left with nobody in the world but the hotel cleaner who notices her sad demeanour.

Edge, Morley’s first fiction feature, bears no shortage of similarities to her factual work, the idea of disconnected lives floating vacantly through life an evident fixation. Each of her six leads bears that sense of disassociation in various states of vagueness, the faces to which her direction consigns a great deal of the emotional interaction carrying the weight of a life not without its disappointments. Despite an inescapable element of counterbalance to the respective pairings, what we have here is six characters defined beyond just their narrative functions, given a depth that—while obviously lesser in some—at least makes each feel more than plot points as with so many such ensemble pieces. The three segments—they interact little in the course of the film—carry varied tonal influences, one more overtly comic where another will be rueful, angry even. It’s a difficulty to balance such a multifarious narrative evenly, but somehow Morley and her editor Fiona DeSouza succeed in proportioning screen time without ever sacrificing the emotional legitimacy of any of these relationships.

This is a film so different in form to Dreams of a Life, yet the authorial voice of Morley connects the two inextricably. In both films she has constructed a story of loneliness and loss, of longing and lament.

Dramatically engaging and thematically rich though it is, Edge at times feels uncomfortably compelled to a certain narrative conformity. There’s an unspoken rule in interlocked anthology films like this that the stories must, at some point, converge in order to meet audience expectation. As such Morley’s denouement feels more the outcome of defined structure than of appropriate direction, more linked to expectation that these paths should cross than to the necessity for them to do so. That’s not to say that the conclusion doesn’t function as a satisfying finale—it does—just that it’s a disappointingly conformist end to a bravely dark story, a resolution perhaps just a little too convenient to make the same impact as what came before it.

I believe Sarris would have liked Edge as an exemplar of his advancements on auteur theory. This is a film so different in form to Dreams of a Life, yet the authorial voice of Morley connects the two inextricably. In both films she has constructed a story of loneliness and loss, of longing and lament. Working within the framework of generic constraint—the conventions of the talking head documentary are just as restrictive as that of this type of fiction film—she probes deeper than most filmmakers manage, constructing powerful human fables that transcend the boundaries of formic expectation. Edge is a film of pained beauty, unique to its characters’ situations but, through the preternatural transcendentalism of the omnipresent fog her camera quietly captures, applicable to every last one of us.

[notification type=”star”]73/100 ~ GOOD. Edge is a film of pained beauty, unique to its characters’ situations but, through the preternatural transcendentalism of the omnipresent fog her camera quietly captures, applicable to every last one of us.[/notification]

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.