DIR/ WRI: Alice Lowe • PRO: Jennifer Handorf • DOP: Ryan Eddleston • ED: Matteo Bini • DES: Blair Barnette • MUS: Pablo Clements, James Griffith, Toydrum • CAST: Alice Lowe, Jo Hartley, Gemma Whelan, Kate Dickie, Kayvan Novak, Tom Davis, Tom Meeten, Marc Bessant
Heavily pregnant Ruth (Alice Lowe) is a woman on a mission, and a very unpleasant one at that. Urged on by the taunting of her unborn daughter, Ruth meticulously hunts and violently murders seemingly random victims. At first there is no obvious common ground between these men and women, but as the source of our protagonist’s anguish is gradually revealed to us it becomes evident that revenge is a dish best served bloody and raw, preferably planned in collusion with a fetus maniacally laughing all the while. Savage, twisted and hilarious Prevenge plays with audience expectations in the best way possible by refusing to play it straight.
The question of bodily autonomy and the treatment of pregnant women lie at the core of this film. Ruth’s feelings of paranoia and hallucinations of her child talking to her from within in the womb are compounded by the fact that those around now refuse to see her as an individual being – even her health provider continuously forgoes calling the character by her actual name in favour of a simpering ‘Mummy’, constantly inferring the baby is now all that matters and should dictate her every action, which is the very thing it is doing. Pregnancy in film is often utilised merely as a tool to raise the emotional stakes for the (usually male) protagonist, a symbol of hope and rebirth for characters seeking some form of redemption. Lowe, who wrote, directed and starred in the film while heavily pregnant herself in real life, happily rips down this romantic illusion of childbearing and heavily criticises the oft condescending manner in which expectant mothers are commoditised by both their own doctors and society at large. All the prenatal yoga classes in the world won’t negate Ruth’s ever-growing sense of despair and anger. The nitty-gritty, rough, unpleasant sides of pregnancy, in particular pre-natal depression, are thrust into the centre of this story with a perception so sharp it could only have come from a person who has experienced it. That is not to say the film is dedicated to hard-hitting realism; indeed, the story exists in a unique realm of absurdity that provides genuine laughs alongside genuine shock and horror. In any resembling reality, Ruth’s murder spree would be cut short very quickly, but then we wouldn’t have our story.
All cast members deliver strong performances though, of course, this is very much Lowe’s film. Her turn as the psychotic Ruth is finely measured and contains a delicious mix of deadpan line deliveries and over-the-top physical acting. There is a great deal of gore sprinkled throughout the film, but never in a manner that feels gratuitous. Ruth’s external violence is simply a very literal expression of her deep, internal anguish. All the same, some viewers may find it difficult to watch.
Overall, Prevenge is a breath of fresh air, breaking with tradition by providing a distinctly feminine revenge tale that doesn’t skimp on the violence or laughs.
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Prevenge is released 10th February 2017