(director/writer: John Michael McDonagh; screenwriter: Lawrence Osborne novel; cinematographer: Larry Smith; editors: Elizabeth Eves, Chris Gill; music: Lorne Balfy; cast: Jessica Chastain (Jo Henninger), Ralph Fiennes (David Henninger), Caleb Landry Jones (Dally Margolis), Matt Smith (Richard Galloway), Abbey Lee (Cody), Saïd Taghmaoui (Anouar), Christopher Abbott (Tom Day), Ismael Kanater (Abdellah Taheri), Mourad Zaoui (Hamid), Aissam Taamart (Ismael), Omar Ghazaou (Driss); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; John Michael McDonagh, Elizabeth Eves, Trevor Matthews, Nick Gordon: Brookstreet Pictures; 2021-UK)
“A well-executed dark comedy and psychological drama.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A well-executed dark comedy and psychological drama based on the 2012 Lawrence Osborne novel, by the social critic and travel writer, that’s filmed in Morocco. It’s directed in a provocative and challenging manner by the moralistic-minded London-born filmmaker John Michael McDonagh(“The Guard”/”Cavalry”). The film takes place over a weekend in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
The haughty, detached, racist and wealthy and seemingly irredeemable Brit David Henninger (Ralph Fiennes) and his wife, Jo (Jessica Chastain), are a couple bored with each other and prone to having verbal spats, and are heading for a divorce. While on a European holiday they are attending in Morocco a boozy weekend party in the desert estate of their eccentric rich friends, the snobby Richard Galloway (Matt Smith) and Dally Margolis (Caleb Landry Jones).
En route to the party, before drinking heavily, David hits a young Arab boy on the road and drives off with the dead boy in his car trunk, unconcerned about the victim, Driss (Omar Ghazaoui), as he takes no responsibility for the nighttime accident–considering it only an unpleasant inconvenience. He brings the dead boy’s body to a garage, where the police rule it as an accident.
David says to himself he’s willing to give the dead boy’s family 1,000 euros as blood money to make things right.
Seeking penance, David bravely goes to the boy’s family and offers the poor boy’s father (Ismael Kanater) money. While he’s away Jo entertains an affair with one of the guests–the bisexual American Tom Day (Christopher Abbott).
The upper-class white elitists are all painted with the same brush-strokes as repulsive and unlikable, all suffering from a case of white privilege.
It’s a film that should alienate most people, since David, a more complex person than how he’s caricatured, forgives himself for his actions and does not wait for others to offer their support. The film asks if by gifting the poor family of the dead boy with money, and seeking penance, is that not enough of a gesture for him to be forgiven by society.
REVIEWED ON 1/16/2022 GRADE: B