If Rian Johnson’s 2006 film Brick proved anything, it’s that you can apply film noir tropes to almost anything as long as you believe in it. Director Ryan Andrews film Elfie Hopkins has no faith in this idea, it has no faith in almost any of the genres it attempts to encompass resulting in a confused, schizophrenic mess of a film which wastes so much of the potential of the central idea.
The film starts in a small village (possibly in Wales although accents are all over the place) where 22-year-old Elfie Hopkins (Jaime Winstone) lives a strange existence consisting of smoking weed and having strange detective fantasies with her best friend Dylan (Aneurin Barnard). Elfie longs for something, anything to happen in her hum drum existence which will make her weird noirish speech and thinking patterns gain weight because all she is doing at the moment is peeing off her step mum, dad and the locals.
Her prayers are answered somewhat by the arrival of the Gammon family and their two weird kids who make Elfie and Dylan seem positively boring by comparison. Mr and Mrs Gammon run a ‘independent travel company’ and waste no time enticing the locals with dreams of going on a safari and of course these people disappear never to be seen again. Elfie gets suspicious, hangs around on the Gammon’s doorstep long enough to actually witness some wrong doing and then it all shifts suddenly into a completely new and unearned direction.
There was the kernel of a good idea here but nothing in the execution is successful in any sort of way. British cinema often merely replicates past success for five years at a time so kudos to the producers for trying something new, but Elfie Hopkins will no doubt be pointed to when financiers turn down a project that takes British cinema in a potentially new and exciting direction. Jaime Winstone has been likeable in other things, even the worst kind of schlock that she has been involved in has been elevated by her presence, here she is just annoying. he is like that girl we all know who goes out of her way to be weird and quirky without actually believing in it or what kind of statement she is trying to make and who eventually just ends up angry and isolated. It’s like ‘Crazy Cat Lady Begins’.
Nobody else in the cast fares any better, every performance is wooden and feels like its straight out of your local amateur dramatics society. Adding to the low rent feel is that fact that the film never really goes anywhere, it seems to be all filmed on three doorsteps and a woodland stretch of road. I know that its supposed to be a small town but it’s frankly ridiculous.
Perhaps the worst thing that can be said about Elfie Hopkins however is it’s tedious, perhaps the most boring film for a while. An endless hour and twenty minutes go by of Elfie moping around and not much else until the ‘surprise’ reveal that occurs which everybody knew about in the first five minutes of the film. Director and co-writer Ryan Andrews seems to be so in love with his concept and his ‘oh so much cooler than everyone’ heroine that he forgets important things like pacing, humour and an emotional core. Once the reveal is over the film dramatically shifts gears from low rent neo noir into full tilt gorefest. People die violently and suddenly out of the blue and Elfie gets tooled up for what seems like its going to be the film roaring to life. Sadly after a Schwarzenegger-esque scene of Elfie getting kitted out for a violent battle to the death, it’s over in five minutes with a sudden boom and you are left scratching your head about what exactly you just witnessed.
Elfie Hopkins wants to be many things without ever really deciding on one of them, much like the title character herself. The film is a shallow, messy and directionless piece of filmmaking.