Every year the London Film Festival features countless deliberately paced, pensive dramas, which are very nicely shot, but during which very little happens. At the risk of being labelled a philistine, it seems only fair to confess that I, like almost every person who has ever entered a cinema, find these to be, at best opportunities to catch up on the lost sleep.
While Shell shares the traits of many of these movies – even with a relatively short running time of 90 minutes, the film could hardly be described as action packed – it’s far more engaging than the average festival fodder.
While it is well shot and beautifully acted, the film’s main strength is in the bold choices made by writer/director Scott Graham. Throughout the film, he avoids the obvious – creating a story and characters that are a source of genuine intrigue as he does.
This is particularly true of the uncomfortable nature of the relationship between Shell and Peter. The fact that the pseudo-sexual tension seems to be come from the daughter rather than father was a risk that might have caused the film to leave a nasty taste in the mouth. Ultimately it pays off creating a compelling film that usually avoids being predictable. That is until it moves into the final act.
Early on the film sets out the reasons for Shell’s situation, and Scott takes the most obvious path to resolve this. Not a problem if it felt like we had built to a climax, but it doesn’t. Instead, the it comes almost out of nowhere, and consequently feels as if it was simply a case of the film running out of ideas.
Still, on the whole, Shell is an excellent film, featuring some truly fantastic performances, least not lead actress Chloe Pirrie as the eponymous lead.