Red Road
Jackie works as a CCTV operator until her camera spots a man she never wanted to see again. His return to Glasgow sparks dark memories that seek permanent closure.

moviereview rates films from
1 (unwatchable) to 5 (unmissable)
Kate Dickie, Tony Curran, Martin Compston, Nathalie Press

Andrea Arnold

Anders Thomas Jensen

UK / Denmark

Rating / Running Time
MA / 113 minutes

Australian Release
October 2007

Official Site

(c) moviereview 2006-2007
ABN 72 775 390 361

Jackie (Kate Dickie) monitors CCTV cameras trained on a desolate housing estate in Glasgow. Her job is to protect this corner of the world from the outside, and indeed, from those who live there. One day she sees someone she never wanted to see again, an event that inevitably leads to a horrific conclusion. Red Road picked up the Jury Prize at Cannes last year and has enjoyed darling status at festivals across the world (it played to appreciative, if shocked, audiences at MIFF this year). For Arnold’s graffitied gem of a film is quite unlike anything you would expect from the opening dialogue. It has the power to truly surprise, rare in cinema at any level.

Jackie’s motive is one of many revelations that come late in the film, and account for the distasteful, vigilante action that precedes it. But she is not alone in unsettling the film, Martin Compston’s Stevie is a firecracker of a character whose barely controlled anger has the capacity to crack at any time. He lends another layer of extraordinary tension to a film bending under the weight of its internal fear. Yet Arnold doesn’t give in to the trickery you might expect; instead she plays it straight letting anxiety well from deep within her character’s emotional struggle, and the contemporary war-zone that is Glasgow, do it for her.

Taking a thematic cue from Jackie’s work, Red Road prowls around its subject at stalking distance. Professional voyeurism invades her private and social life so that when Jackie decides to take action, she does so without a sense of engagement - as if the hunted is unable to see the hunter. Discourse on our monitored lives and how little that can really amount to underpins a terrific morality play. It’s a distressingly violent and unpalatable one for Red Road is not an easy nor pleasurable watch. But when asking such dark questions, how could it be otherwise?