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Gozo – Review


Release Date: 2015
Director: Miranda Bowen
Writer: Miranda Bowen
Cast: Joseph Kennedy - Ophelia Lovibond - Daniel Lapaine



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Posted October 5, 2016 by

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Gozo Review

Miranda Bowen’s Gozo, which had its European premiere at this year’s Raindance Film Festival last week, is a haunting and suspenseful drama with roots in classical mythology, the ghost stories of du Maurier, and the psychological horror of films such as Dark Water and Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (itself based on a du Maurier tale).

Based on an idea inspired by the feelings of isolation and ‘cabin fever’ experienced by principle actor, Joseph Kennedy, whilst on a writing retreat with a friend in an old lighthouse, Gozo tells the story of a young couple, Joe (Kennedy) and Lucille (Ophelia Lovibond), who move to the titular, Maltese island for a fresh start, following the suicide of Joe’s ex-girlfriend. While their life seems idyllic at first, things start to disintegrate when a young tourist goes missing, and musician Joe becomes plagued by visions and strange noises on the recordings he makes for his work.

Matters are made worse by the arrival of Riley (Daniel Lapaine), a charming but vaguely sinister American who comes to Gozo to collect his late father’s paintings, and soon has Lucille under his spell. As she feels her relationship slipping away, and Joe’s conscience gets the better of him, Lucille realises that however far you run, you cannot escape your inner demons.

Gozo Review

Bowen’s feature offers no easy answers. While there are allusions to the ancient lore in Ulysses and Homer’s Odyssey, and to the island being somehow magical, we can never be sure if Joe is hearing and seeing these terrifying occurrences for real, or if they are a product of his traumatised and guilty mind.

It’s a satisfying and somewhat eerie coincidence that in a film concerned with death by drowning, the lead actress is named Ophelia, like the tragic love interest of Hamlet who is gradually pulled under water, too broken by grief to do anything but sing as she sinks. But while Lucille is affiliated with water, often seen carrying heavy vessels of drinking water and swimming in the increasingly polluted pool, it’s Joe who drifts inexorably towards a similar fate to the Shakespearean character, despite preferring arid landscapes, alcohol, and sweating on a treadmill.

Bowen weaves symbolism liberally through the narrative to create a sense of dread. While it appears to be a paradise initially, the island gradually begins to feel hostile. The locals – speaking in a tongue Lucille and Joe can’t understand – bring a threat of violence into their home. While the couple are reliant on the inhabitants for help, they are also outsiders, isolated by their otherness. This concept of being unable to ever truly escape is visually represented by Lucille struggling with the water containers, and by her inability to wash in or cook with clean water until she moves into Riley’s space and starts to reciprocate his advances. She is continually denied access to this basic human right by the men who surround her until Joe finally observes that Lucille is ‘swimming in a cesspool’, one which he has helped to create with his own inertia. Perhaps this is a comment on what is to be a woman, although in a subversion of the horror trope, it’s Joe, not Lucille, who succumbs to the typically female doom at the film’s climax.

The problem with the contaminated water is symbolic of Joe’s guilt, and of the rot setting into his relationship with Lucille. This combined with the unsettling soundtrack, punctuated with anguished cries and the drone of flies, serves as an audio-visual memento mori, reminding us that we can’t escape grief, no matter where we go, who with, or how sumptuous our surroundings, and that ultimately death is coming for us all. The sparse dialogue and faded palette create a washed-out, dreamlike landscape, and stark images such as the couple’s dog staring out to sea after his master, ensure that Gozo will linger in the mind like the hangover from a vivid and beautiful nightmare.

Gozo Movie Still

Read our Interview with the Director – Here!


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Katie Young
Katie Young – Author
Freelance Contributor

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One Comment


    Does the uber hot JK get naked? Cos then it becomes a must watch.

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