Tilt, pan, zoom in: Red Road is a film about CCTV and the culture of surveillance we've built around ourselves. Jackie (Kate Dickie) is a camera operator, watching multi-screen footage of life around the tower blocks of Glasgow's Red Road estate. It's dull viewing, until she glimpses a face she recognizes: Clyde (Tony Curran) an ex-con who's intimately tied to her past. Grainy, grim and occasionally great, this voyeuristic slice of Scots miserabilism proves that sometimes the camera (operator) lies.
Making her feature debut, Dickie suffuses Jackie's story with angst. She has few lines, but she doesn't need words, her expressive face emoting every nuance as she watches Clyde on CCTV then gradually insinuates her way into his life. Writer/director Andrea Arnold keeps us hooked, eerie surveillance footage scored by an ambient soundtrack of clangs, rumbles and whistles promising dark twists that Red Road never quite delivers on (an awkward payoff is particularly disappointing).
"AWKWARD BUT ABSORBING"
Where it excels is in capturing the dead end hopelessness of Glasgow's boozers and tower blocks. Characters are charmless, raw: constantly tabbing, gobbing and swearing. Curran's Clyde is a swaggering Neanderthal, his bedroom come-on and outright aggression lacing the film's single, intense sex scene with uncomfortable power. In a supporting role as Clyde's troubled mate, Sweet Sixteen's Martin Compston intrigues - making you want to see more. That wish may be granted: Red Road is the first in a planned trilogy using the characters created by Dogme95 filmmakers Lone Scherfig (Wilbur (Wants To Kill Himself)) and Anders Thomas Jensen (Open Hearts). Like Jackie, we'll just have to keep on watching...