Lynne Ramsay – Morvern Callar (2002)


Willow Maclay wrote:
In Ramsay’s close-ups on Morton’s face, you can see a woman who’s breaking under the pressure, overloading her life with potent but fleeting experiences. In doing so, she remains mired underneath the weight of her own grief, which is always creeping through the surface. In a brilliant, subtle performance, Morton conveys the deep loss that suicide leaves behind, while also tapping into a total sense of reckless abandon. Ramsay amplifies the performance with an understanding of image and aural effect; the movie at times feels like the unleashing of a torrent of despair that can only be drowned out by the blaring of pop music in cheap headphones. Anything to keep the reaper away.

Ben Sachs wrote:
Played magnificently by Samantha Morton, the title character of Lynne Ramsay’s second feature is an existential protagonist in the tradition of Albert Camus’ Meursault. She has no morality and no ambitions; she is capable of both friendship and betrayal, entering into either seemingly without motivation. Ramsay doesn’t attempt to probe the character’s inner life; rather she delivers a rich sensory experience that channels the excitement of Morvern’s moment-to-moment existence. The film is marked by mobile camerawork and vivid sound design (Ramsay’s use of music is especially strong), which draw viewers into the character’s perspective without revealing any psychological insight. This immersive style adds to the film’s sense of unpredictability—not only are you unsure of what Morvern will do next, you can’t see far enough beyond to immediate experience to guess. The film begins when the anti-heroine finds her husband’s corpse after he’s committed suicide. Rather than inform the police, Morvern hides the body, tells her friends her husband’s disappeared, then takes his recently completed novel and attempts to sell it to publishers as her own work. While all this is happening, she continues going to her job as a supermarket clerk during the day and partying hard at night; Ramsay finds mystery and wonder in both activities, presenting them as part of a continuous sensory flow. Nothing jars that flow, not even when the setting switches from urban Scotland to rural Spain, which is where Morvern and friend go on vacation with the money Morvern’s taken from her dead husband’s bank account. There are echoes of Antonioni’s THE PASSENGER in how Ramsay presents travel—the attractive imagery carries an undercurrent of disappointment, suggesting that no matter how far you go, you never get away from yourself.


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