The Times – Review of Wreckers

Three star review of Wreckers by Kate Muir in The Times.

The beautiful Norfolk fens hide dark secrets in D. R. Hood’s debut, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy

Wreckers is a small canvas, but it contains fascinating performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy as a couple returning to their roots in the country. The fact that those roots are twisted, rotting and deeply hidden beneath the surface emerges slowly during sun-dappled days in the Norfolk fens.

Cumberbatch plays David, who works with disturbed children, and for once he is not typecast as a toff. It’s good to hear him without the commanding officer’s tones from War Horse or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. As Dawn, the young wife and primary-school teacher, Foy is a delicate revelation, and this film will be a useful calling card for her career. (Last seen as a wild-haired, caged madwoman in the trashy The Season of the Witch.) The third character in this fraternal and possibly sexual love triangle is David’s brother Nick, fresh back from Afghanistan with serious war damage, and played by Shaun Evans. The first-time director D. R. Hood traps the three in an isolated, run-down house with peeling wallpaper, which awaits turning into a dream home. But DIY alone is not enough to achieve the dream, and the brothers’ past and abusive family slip into the foreground, casting dark shadows over the Cath Kidston set. At night Nick shouts and sleepwalks, at one point taking a lettuce to bed and snuggling up.

Dawn is the focus of the film, and her relationship with David is beautifully tender, as she struggles to get pregnant. But increasingly Dawn takes on the role of reluctant detective, and becomes aware of her outsider status, a city girl unaware of the past that surrounds her we’re slightly in minor Straw Dogs or Hot Fuzz territory — the bucolic, charming village that turns out to have less-than-charming residents, all apparently indulging in wife-beating, incest and other crime behind closed doors. Much, perhaps too much, is made by the cinematographer of country churches, stained glass and rippling fields. If only this had been pushed to the claustrophobic, darker side, the film would be more commercial.

But Hood, to her credit, holds back, allows her actors to improvise and goes for ambiguity rather than vulgar punch. Her next project will be worth looking out for. Plus any film that showcases an open-topped white Karmann Ghia has my vote