11 April 2011

Andrea Arnold's Wasp (2003)

Wasp (2003) won an Oscar for Best Short Film, Live Action, and is maybe an indication of what is now almost beginning to seem like an exciting revival in British cinema, of which we can perhaps include the more experimental work of Clio Barnard, that of joint directors Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor, and the (upper-middle-class-centered, of course) films of Joanna Hogg. Arnold continued the promise of this short with the feature films Red Road (2006) and Fish Tank (2009), both of which have been well received critically.

Wasp is 26 minutes long and is set on a grim Dartford sink estate in Kent, England
. The main character Zoë (Nathalie Press) is a single mother with four children, one of whom is a baby. Two minutes into the film, we've already seen Zoë striding out into the estate barefoot in her nightgown, carrying a bare-assed baby, brawling with a female neighbor on the grass, and being very liberal with the graphic insults.

There's obviously considerable internal conflict when this attractive twentysomething woman gets a date at the Jolly Farmers with ex-boyfriend Dave (Danny Dyer), but even her confusion over this, of which the lie that she is just child-minding has no small part, can't excuse her picking up a pacifier from the floor and sticking it directly in a bag of sugar and directly in the baby's mouth. But hell, even the other kids are eating sugar from the bag because the only other potentially edible material is a few slices of white bread with mold.

So Zoë goes to the Jolly Farmers pub, where Dave (who looks like David Beckham, says one of the kids) goes all egalitarian when Zoë comes in and finds him playing pool, expecting her to get a round in - he still doesn't know about the kids (who are hanging around outside), and doesn't seem to have the wherewithal to imagine the complications.

Then, at closing time, the kids are told to hide near the pub and the couple start to make out in Dave's car, but a wasp disturbs play by the baby being attacked by one, so Dave drives them all back home for a serious or something talk with Zoë. Talk? The movie seems to have evaded it right to the end.

This is not the British New Wave of the late 50s to early 60s, but new blood is waiting to take over the mantle of the more recent Mike Leigh and Ken Loach. In such a very different way though? Let's wait and see.

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