Starring Sean Harris, Alun Armstrong, Andy Blithe
Directed by Matthew Holness
Suffering traumatic instances in anyone’s life is the stuff of nightmares for sure, and if the damage hasn’t been too terribly catastrophic to one’s psyche there comes a time when an attempt at healing those wounds must take place. Problem is, what if those horrific memories pack more of a mental punch today than they ever did when you were younger? In Matthew Holness’ surrealistic nightmare of a film, Possum, the odds are already stacked against a man who is simply trying to wipe the slate clean after many years of anguish.
The film follows a man named Philip (Harris), whose occupation as a children’s puppeteer hasn’t exactly yielded the richest of rewards, and when he’s become disgraced and forced to return to his childhood home, the chance to remedy his ills is none more the present. His step-father (Armstrong) was an evil S.O.B. who was at the forefront of many of Philip’s strains and stresses – far too many for any innocent child to handle and process over time, but here he is, ready to ditch the many maladies that have afflicted him. The focus of Philip’s trauma is not only his step-father but Possum, the appalling -looking puppet that he swears has been at the root of his issues, and who could blame him – once you get a peep at the freakin’ thing, you’ll have nightmares as well! Ripe with dour imagery and even sadder subject matter, the movie tells the tale of abuse on many levels, and it’s depressing as all hell.
Not to say that the movie was a bust, but please don’t start watching this one if you were planning on having a great day – this movie will hang on your shoulders like a lead cloak and drag you into that dark place in your mind that’s a bit of a climb to crawl out of. The way that Holness crafted his characters was expertly done, and while initially sympathizing with Philip’s plight, over the course of the film your allegiance will definitely sway and not allow you to see him in the same light. As far as Maurice, the step-father is concerned…let’s just say that the words sordid and sleazy are two of the less cruel descriptives I could offer, but it shows the strength in the role that Armstrong plays – well done on that end. As far as grasping everything that needed to be conveyed in this presentation, it was a bit of a stretch at times – you’ll find that much of the emotions and actions are best offered without words. The movie’s arthouse styling will have its share of supporters as well as its detractors, but in the end of it all it’s worth a watch – just don’t eyeball it if you’re havin’ a howdy-doody kind of day.