(director/writer: Nora Fingscheidt; screenwriters: Amy Liptrot, Daisy Lewis; cinematographer: Yunis Roy Imer; editor: Stephan Bechinger; music: John Gurtier, Jan Miserre; cast: Saoirse Ronan (Rona), Paapa Essiedu (Daynin), Stephen Dillane (Andrew), Saskia Reeves (Annie), Nabil Elouahabi (Samir), Danyai Ismail (Pascal); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Saoirse Ronan, Jack Lowdan, Dominic Norris, Sarah Brocklehurst; Arcade Pictures; 2024-UK/Germany-in English)

“A powerful, sensitive and exhausting survival recovery film on being an alcoholic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

German director and writer Nora Fingscheidt (“System Crasher”/”The Unforgiveable”) and co-writers Amy Liptrot and Daisy Lewis, base their highly personal film on Liptrot’s memoir (2016). It presents a powerful, sensitive and exhausting survival recovery film on being an alcoholic. It takes shape as a non-linear and unconventional telling of a familiar movie story that is told without the usual cliches.

Saoirse Ronan, in an Oscar winning performance, plays Rona, an alcoholic. Paapa Essiedu plays Daynin, her caring boyfriend who leaves her when he no longer can handle her outbursts.

Rona was raised on her bipolar suffering Englishman father’s (Stephen Dillane) farm in Scotland’s Orkney Islands, in the northeast north, where she playfully rebuffed her mom’s (Saskia Reeves) Christianity.  As a young woman she lived a troubled wild party life in London. With her life eventually screwed up over her alcohol addiction, she returns at age 30 to the beautiful and quiet Orkney Islands to recover.

The film smoothly veers back and forth between her drunken club life in swinging London and her sober life in Scotland.

At a latter point in her recovery, Rona seeks more solitude and moves farther north to the remote island of Papa Westray, whose population is around 70. Her internet and the warmth of the accepting locals, help in her realistic strides to recover.

The electronic music she listens to on her headphones mixed with the pounding surf at Orkney, is compared to the tumultuous nightlife scenes in London.

The road to recovery is no picnic, and that Ronan is so convincing in trying to gain her sobriety, elevates this humanistic drama of dealing with personal pain and shame into a first-rate pic on a troubled young woman’s self-discovery.

It played at the Sundance Film Festival.

REVIEWED ON 1/29/2024  GRADE: A-