In her feature film directorial debut, actress and filmmaker Antonia Campbell-Hughes showcases an eerie ability to transfix and disturb an audience, while holding tight to the nuances and subtleties of psychological terror and trauma, all mixed with a desperate feeling of discovering identity. It Is In Us All isn’t necessarily a scary film, nor is it a level of disturbing that will sicken audiences, but it is a story led by a powder-keg performance from Cosmo Jarvis, that will have you captivated by it’s dark and moody atmospherically immersion.
Hamish (Jarvis) is returning to Ireland, from London, in order to settle his late Aunt’s estate, handed down to him after her death. While in Ireland, Hamish feels an internal connection to his late mother, a connection that has grown stronger since his arrival and a subject that has lack discussion between Hamish and his incredibly successful father of whom he moved to London with as a child. However, Hamish’s life is turned upside down when he is involved in a sickening car accident on a rural Irish road, which takes the life of the other car’s driver, a teenage boy. Surviving the accident with minor injuries, Hamish discovers there was another occupant in the car, another survivor named Evan.
Initially hoping to get back to London once his Aunt’s house was settled, Hamish decides to stay in Ireland to pursue an investigation to find out more about his mother. An investigation that is occasionally derailed when Evan, a mysterious and oddly, sexually charged teenager, begins involving himself in Hamish’s life in an unexpected way.
Director Antonia Campbell-Hughes shows an incredible strength at holding tension for the films 90 minute run time. There is a barely a scene or moment (more often than not involving Hamish at the centre) that feels like it could unpredictably go in any direction. The dark and gloomy Irish seaside is captured in such a sharp way that invokes such an brooding atmosphere over the story and characters, making it a fantastic setting for Campbell-Hughes script. While the tension does keep the levels of intrigue consistent, there are elements of the story structure and occasional short-comings from big, tense build ups that highlight areas of Campbell-Hughes screenwriting that can be improved. For every tense moment, there happens to be some form of anti-climax or irrelevant moment that feels like it could have been cut, or replaced with something that will propel the story on better.
It Is In Us All is primarily a story that revolves around Hamish, but in two different circumstances. The first being his identity crisis after discovering more about his mother’s life, and the other being his developing relationship with Evan after the car accident. While these two elements both serve important roles in how Hamish evolves throughout the film, there are times were the two stories clash or interrupt the other, messing with the flow and pace of the film. Both elements are truly intriguing, but there is a sense that separate movies about each story, involving Hamish at the centre could be made, or have one serve as a secondary plot, rather than giving them both the frontline treatment.
While the storylines occasionally conflict, it is the performance of Cosmo Jarvis that holds the narrative together. Hamish’s identity struggle is driven by his struggle to find his version of masculinity. Often challenged by his father (who is incredibly successful in the industry that is also shared with him by Hamish), Hamish has a longing desire to always be better than his father, driven by work and status. When the past his mother lived is revealed to Hamish over the course of the film, his struggle to understand whether the foundations of his relationship with his father a solid begins his emotional downfall. This emotional trauma that is being dangerously bottle up inside of Hamish is only then further tried and tested by the car accident and the incessant poking and prodding from Evan.
Hamish’s relationship with Evan ebbs and flows between compassion and intrigue, with Hamish chasing a feeling of lost adolescence through Evan, and Evan experience a different side of masculinity through Hamish. The oddities of there relationship are incredibly subtle, leaving it up to the audience to decide on what level of appropriateness their relationship shares with each other, creating a grey area for the characters to live in.
Evan’s mysterious demeanour slowly unravels through the story as a teenager who is heavily affected by the accident, but in a way that awakens something in him. Campbell-Hughes script does a fantastic job of portraying this innate feeling of feeling alive after being so close to death with the scenarios it puts Evan in, but is also complimented by a solid and captivating performance from Rhys Mannion.
It Is In Us All does try to balance one too many things at some points, occasionally losing it’s narrative focus. However, it’s underlying, darker themes that are explored through the characters, and then brought to life by great performances from Cosmo Jarvis and Rhys Mannion create an tense look at masculinity and identity that will leave a brooding feeling after the credits roll.
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