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The Party’s Just Beginning – Review

The Party's Just Beginning - Review
The Party's Just Beginning - Review
The Party's Just Beginning - Review


Release Date: 7 December [USA]
Director: Karen Gillan
Writer: Karen Gillan
Cast: Karen Gillan - Lee Pace - Matthew Beard



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Posted January 2, 2019 by

The Party’s Just Beginning – Review

Luisadh (Karen Gillan) is sleepwalking through life. During the day, she goes to her boring job at a cheese shop in a supermarket, and at night, she gets drunk off her head and has one-night stands. On the way back from these encounters, she always takes the same path – over a fence on the highway and then through a small bridge. This place holds special significance for Luisadh – that’s where her best friend, Alistair (Matthew Beard), killed himself almost a year ago.

In the run up to the first anniversary of Alistair’s death, Luisadh spirals further and further out of control, losing track of time, and herself, as she desperately tries to cope with the death of someone so important to her. But how does she deal with Alistair’s suicide when death is all around her?

The Party's Just Beginning - Review

Karen Gillan’s feature film directorial debut is a hard-hitting and painful look at loss and how it affects those left behind. This is not an easy film to watch, and the opening scenes of a ditzy Luisadh rapping badly during karaoke do not prepare you for the horrors that are going through her mind.

When the FilmDebate team attended Gillan’s talk at Fan Expo Canada in 2018, she mentioned that The Party’s Just Beginning is a kind of twisted love letter to her home town of Inverness. Though a very beautiful area, as seen in this film as well, Inverness has a shockingly high suicide rate, something Gillan wanted to capture in her story. Having watched this film, we can say that she certainly achieves her goal.

This film deals with a number of difficult topics, not just suicide, but the way Gillan tells the story is poignant and memorable. She eschews the garden-variety feel-good angle for the film, going to the crux of how drugs, bigotry, rape, and suicide impact people, and how easily one can fall victim to any of these.

Considering the subject-matter of the film, and the rather explicit portrayal of certain acts, I do wish the film had come with a trigger warning. For those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, there are scenes in this film that will feel extremely personal and disturbing. They work well for shock value, but they can be very upsetting to watch.

The film relies on the use of flashbacks to show how close Luisadh and Alistair were, slowly building up to the terrible moment when he took his life. Why and how he came to that moment is eked out slowly over the film’s run-time. What is devastating in this story, and realistic, is that it isn’t simply one incident, but a series of many events that lead Alistair to make this decision.

Initially, I was wary of the flashbacks, as they were quite disorientating and there wasn’t a distinct way to tell the past from the present. Having said that, I think this was a deliberate technique by Gillan to disorient the audience as it put viewers in the same head-space as Luisadh.

As actor-writer-director for the film, Gillan had plenty of work to do, especially as she is in almost every scene of the film. Despite the workload, she puts in a powerful performance, brilliantly portraying how distraught Luisadh is and how badly she is actually coping. I also like that Gillan doesn’t commandeer the camera, allowing for the cast to share the spotlight so as to develop their characters.

Gillan’s Guardians of the Galaxy co-star, Lee Pace, plays Dale, the mysterious man Luisadh has a short relationship with. He does an adequate job, bringing to life the sorrow of a man who can no longer be with his family. His role is surprisingly curtailed, but he makes use of his time on-screen to subvert Hollywood tropes and act as the film’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl (Boy).

Matthew Beard puts in an excellent performance as the love-sick, then heart-broken, Alistair. He gives the character a great deal of complexity and shares remarkable chemistry with the rest of the cast, particularly with Gillan, with whom he shares the bulk of his screen-time.

However, despite Beard’s brilliant portrayal of Alistair, this is yet another example of films casting seemingly straight cis-gender men in roles that should have gone to actors who are more suited to a character’s sexual orientation and gender.

In general, I was surprised by the lack of diversity in the cast. I’m not sure of the ethnic make-up of Inverness, but it is quite surprising to come across a film in 2018 with such a non-inclusive ensemble.

These hiccups catch the more critical eye, but for the most part, The Party’s Just Beginning is a well-made film. It is bleak and dark but also very relevant, and it acts as a character study for its protagonist who is representative of many young people in the world today. Though there are very few humorous moments to alleviate the mood in this film, it does end on a positive note, and feels in some ways, quite inspiring. Gillan clearly has a knack for writing and directing, and if the acting bug ever leaves her, she will be more than comfortable in the director’s chair.


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Louis Skye
Freelance Contributor

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