Film Review: The Party’s Just Beginning

As part of the Glasgow Film Festival

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Karen Gillan’s writing and directorial debut, The Party’s Just Beginning, is nothing if not ambitious. It tells a tale of a young woman named Lucy, played by Gillan as well, who is in the midst of careering off the rails in her life. Something has clearly affected her immensely, and she attempts to drown this out through consuming chips, getting drunk and having sex with strangers. We the viewers must then piece together what has happened in this unconventional comedy drama.

For a debut, the film makes a surprising number of refreshing creative choices. Firstly as it’s set in Inverness, and is shot on location. The Scottish roots run deep, almost like a morbid love letter to the country, showcasing beautiful landscapes but also social and cultural problems via effective cinematography. Yet the film is also visually interesting in its structure, and not just in its setting. The film may seem a little scattershot initially, as scenes seem to happen without a clear sense of cohesion. The aspect ratio changes at various instances, and Lucy seems to see strange or repetitive visions throughout. However, from around the halfway point onwards it becomes clear what narrative style Gillan has adopted, and it adds a new layer of appreciation, not only for Lucy as a character, but for her actions, which are all based on the complexities of the emotions she’s feeling.

In that sense, we have a really interesting piece of cinema on our hands. As Gillan’s film explores themes of grief, loss and the emptiness felt after a traumatic event. However, it does this through its ominous atmosphere and unusual choice of storytelling, forcing the viewer to pay attention and put the pieces together for themselves. It’s perplexing for sure, and occasionally suffers from weak dialogue, but it remains engaging throughout. Once things fall into place and start making sense, we find ourselves very invested in Lucy and her situation, whether she’s consuming a bag of chips or talking to an unidentified old man through the phone, in the film’s most emotionally gripping scenes.

The Party’s Just Beginning may take an extra viewing for some, as it’s not your usual kind of film, but it’s nonetheless ambitious and very interestingly crafted. It missteps in places, and is hard to discuss in detail without mentioning spoilers, but its avant-garde approach to its themes and filmmaking is both enjoyable and admirable. It’ll be fun and intriguing to see what else Karen Gillan has to offer as a director in the future.

[Calum Cooper – @CalumtheFilmGuy]

More information about the Glasgow Film Festival, including a full list of upcoming screenings and events, is available here.

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