Movies don’t generally come with more to recommend them: British director Andrea Arnold, making her feature debut, won an Oscar for her short, “Wasp,” in 2005. Star Kate Dickie, a Scottish TV and theater actress making her feature debut, won Best Actress for this performance at the British Independent Film Awards (beating out Helen Mirren, among others) as well as a BAFTA Scotland Award. And Red Road itself won the 2006 Cannes Grand Jury Prize. What’s the big deal? This prickly sketch of a vengeance born out of loneliness and alienation carries the weight of horror of the everyday — it’s not a thriller and there’s nothing Hollywood-exaggerated about it, which makes it all the more disturbing, and all the harder to dismiss. The blanket surveillance that keeps Glasgow under a close eye has the feel of science fiction, but it’s all too real: Jackie (Dickie) works in the control room and has more connection to the strangers she watches on the monitor screens that show her the city streets than she does to the real people in her life, few as they are. And then one day she spies a man (Tony Curran: Beowulf & Grendel) on one of her screens, and we don’t know why, for a long while, she’s so intrigued by him. Who is he to her? Is she repulsed by him, as seems to be the case initially, or is she turned on? Or both? Where her obsession with him goes is impossible to predict and impossible to turn away from. Way beyond a basic “who watches the watchers?” riddle is this: How is Big Brother (or Sister, in this case) impacted by his spying? This merciless and demanding film asks more questions than it answers, and leaves you with the uncomfortable feeling that we have yet not even begun to consider what modern technology is doing to us spiritually. Ugly and beautiful at the same time, this is a tough film to take, but rewards the effort put into it.
Watch Red Road online using LOVEFiLM’s streaming service.