Morvern Callar



UK 2002 : Lynne Ramsay : 97 mins

For her followup to critically-acclaimed debut Ratcatcher, Ramsay tackles Alan Warner’s supposedly unfilmable novel. As the title character, Samantha Morton is only marginally more ‘with it’ than her ‘precog’ Agatha from Spielberg’s Minority Report: initially numbed with grief by the suicide of her novelist boyfriend, supermarket worker Morvern retreats into alcohol before finally plunging into a kind of new, intoxicated state of liberty. Passing off the boyfriend’s final manuscript as her own, she breezily cons a London publishing firm into giving her a hefty advance and escapes the confines of gloomy Oban for sun-kissed Spain with her slightly bewildered best-mate Lana (Kathleen McDermott). But the attractions of the ‘Club Med’ scene soon lose their lustre for Morvern, whose journey, it seems, has only just begun.

Despite the various geographical excursions, the real ‘action’ is internal and firmly character-based – both Ramsay and Morvern are equally hyper-sensitive to the moods, colours, light and textures of their particular environments. The film seems to be about the various stages of grief. But it’s impossible to be sure, given the way each scene shimmers with so much delicate ambiguity. This is a stimulating, absorbing, baffling mood-piece, full of diverting details and hints but ultimately giving very little away. The Spanish hotel, for instance, is named after Don Quixote’s horse, Rosinante – a clue that Morvern is, like Cervantes’ knight, obsessively driven by delusion? Is Morvern a genius, saint, fool, or just an Oban supermarket girl on the make? Morton’s gloriously blank moon-face reflects the movie’s audacious avoidance of easy answers: zonked out, magnetic, signifying everything and/or nothing.

13th September, 2002
(seen 23rd August, Filmhouse Edinburgh – Edinburgh Film Festival)

For all the reviews from the 2002 Edinburgh Film Festival click here.

by Neil Young
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