MIFF Review – Daphne

Director Peter Mackie Burns takes to his debut fiction feature with Daphne, a character driven story that meanders through the destructive nature of a British woman as she searches for a drive for life she has long since lost.

The film opens with a bold and beautiful colour pallet of blues and pinks, which makes Daphne (Emily Beecham) vividly pop from her surroundings with her red hair.

As with a lot of cynical characters, Daphne has an interest in literature and Freud. She often spouts this as she tries to proclaim and defend her dissatisfaction for what life has to offer. Her dissatisfaction is shown best in her inability to truly taste the food she cooks, the significance of which is anchored in her occupation as a station chef.

There is a constant tirade of general hate towards humanity that Daphne supports with her twisted theories of life. However, through this constant onslaught of anger it is difficult to know what she truly believes and what the film wants to drive home. For example, near the films start she reads a book titled Zizek on Zizek with a sub-heading that reads: Humanity is OK, but 99% of people are boring idiots.

Although a wonderful blanket statement, the book reflects a very generic humour that is found across cynical fictional characters. Confusing the film’s message more is her disbelief in love and how people are incapable of anything other than selfish love.

Both of which don’t hit the heart of the issue, which only truly becomes clear in the films conclusion. However, reaching the films conclusion itself is a difficult task.

Daphne is a constant slog of non-decisive dialogue spoken into a meaningless void. In classic film story structure, Daphne finds herself in a life changing event near twenty minutes in. However, this event barely blemishes her aimless wandering through the streets of London leaving the story’s First Act Turn action meaningless. Nothing changes. If anything her life skews steeper into the destructive path she was already on.

The First Act Turn is an unfortunate waste of a scene and a brilliant actor. In itself, Daphne’s First Act Turn creates a sudden shock similar to a symbol clash at a funeral. But there is no follow up, leaving the film to flat line in its stagnant story.

Daphne is a visually beautiful film with a strong actress at the helm. It has a powerful First Act Turn that is unfortunately followed by a hollow story underserving of the film’s positives.

Review by Brittany Howarth

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