Monday, 20 December 2010

The Impossible Place - Review

Before I begin, it essential that I make my confession; I know the people who wrote, starred in and created this film. In fact, quite a lot of them are very dear friends of mine, friends, indeed, with whom I have shared stage. Nonetheless, the ever professional reviewer that I am (or at least try to be), I endeavoured, as I sat in the cinema for the film’s premiere last night, to be as unbiased and impartial as possible. And now, as I write the review for that film, I shall strive to work with the same professionalism.  Right, glad that’s out of the way.

“The Impossible Place” is the second feature length film from the budding film and theatre company, PurpleCoat Productions, which is headed by Mr Karl Falconer and Mr Calum Green. “The Impossible Place”, being a student film, is a low budget production and utilises the talents of very capable, but nevertheless untrained, aspiring actors.

What struck me most as I watched this film last night was just what a gargantuan achievement it was. It has been a year (maybe a little over) since the idea for the film was conceived. The screenplay was then produced by Karl Falconer, who, together with his colleague Calum Green, brought the story to life – casting roles, filming scenes all over Liverpool (and elsewhere), directing shots, getting the right sets, props and costumes, adding special effects, working on ADR et cetera, et cetera. The stress and fatigue for everyone involved, cast and crew, must have been enormous. As an onlooker, I can only stare in amazement. What one must remember is that PurpleCoat is not a large company with infinite funding at hand; it is a small organisation, run by two overwhelmingly determined and talented students. It would be easy to sit and pick faults with the film, but for this fledgling company to produce a full length feature, and a full length feature with some quite brilliant aspects about it, is simply astonishing and something to be admired.

However, that does not mean to say that the film is perfect. It, like everything else, has its flaws. One would have liked a bit more substance in a few scenes. The screenplay is fantastic, there’s no doubting that, but at points, I felt that more could have been done; emotions could have been better developed. For instance, at one point Geoffrey tells Oliver that he has cancer. The scene is a powerful one – but it could have been even more powerful: with a little bit more speech, a more poignant reaction. There were areas of high drama that, at times, were not pushed to their full potential.

The film is a sci-fi thriller, and, as with all dramas of this genre, the plot is crucial to everything. The storyline is gripping, and, for the most part, we are able to follow it. However, there is a lot of jumping in time – be it several thousand years or just two. At points, the audience is left a bit dazed as to just what is going on onscreen. One key area for improvement would be to make things a little bit clearer. This can be achieved firstly by ensuring speech is not drowned out by the soundtrack, which it sometimes is. And secondly, the captions at the bottom of the screen that inform the audience of the current location and time need to remain there for longer, be easier to read and to not be cut off at the edge of the screen – as they consistently were. But, it is important to note that “The Impossible Place” is the first of a trilogy, so many loose ends have been left unsolved deliberately.

The special effects, bearing in mind the budget, were brilliant and convincing. I have no idea how any of it was done – which, surely, is the sign of a good magic trick. I am sure, with a higher standard of equipment and industry expertise, they could be even better – but this, naturally, can only be achieved with commercial funding. One area of technical wizardry was the construction of the magical realm wherein the High Council dwell. That really was marvellous. The characters, once in this realm, had a kind of buzzing aura surrounding them, as did the three members of the Council. The leader, played by Douglas Austin, harnessed balls of electric light to summon and dismiss people from the Council, which looked remarkable.

For me, the performances of all involved were excellent. There was not one actor who didn’t have a moment of brilliance. However, the stand-outs came from Karl Falconer as Oliver, an eccentric and magical time traveller who is still susceptible to the pains of love and friendship, death and loss. Falconer’s portrayal of a peculiar and witty hero, juxtaposed against someone racked by grief and guilt, is marvellous. Also, Chris Hogan’s creepy Bernard and Elena Stephenson’s Taylor make for an unnerving and complex partnership. Both actors, for me, were stars of the film and delivered thoughtful and beautifully nuanced performances. Hogan’s Bernard is at once funny and terrifying, pitiable and villainous. Stephenson’s character, perhaps the darkest of all, is deeply mysterious and oddly endearing. Her relationship with Siobhan Crinson’s Rachel is one of the best parts of the film. Another great performance, and the last I shall mention in this review, came from Rhiannon Wolff as a somewhat odd and perplexing character. She seems to know Oliver, yet Oliver does not know her; she pops up in several scenes, seemingly out of place but no one bats an eyelid. We have no idea who she is or what role she plays in the storyline, but something subtle tells us she is important (for which the writer, Karl Falconer, ought to be admired). Wolff’s portrayal is crazy, a joy to watch and also very funny – an incongruous and unprovoked “quack” which her character comes out with at one point in the film is rather hilarious.

What I would most like to point out is this – “The Impossible Place” is an immensely enjoyable film. What we witnessed at the premiere was the culmination of months upon months of work, but in the end, the effects, the shots, the screenplay and the performances all came together to produce a highly watchable and engaging film. Yes, it has its flaws and faults, there are areas for improvement and I doubt an Oscar is on the cards.  But this is a low budget, independent film – there are lots of terrible films like that, but this is most certainly not one of them. The sheer volume of work and tenacity that went into the making of this film is overwhelming. As a professional, I applaud them all. As a friend, I am so happy for them and I feel so blessed that I know such talented individuals. Everyone involved has achieved something spectacular and for that they should feel proud. “The Impossible Place” is a great film and, as it enters the festival circuit, I can say that only a fool would fail to see its potential. Based on this film and on the rest of their work that I have experienced, I believe PurpleCoat Productions has a bright future ahead of it. Look out for PurpleCoat because they are going places.
Star rating out of 5 for “The Impossible Place”:

If you would like to learn more about PurpleCoat Productions, you can visit their website at

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