Director: Rupert Jones
Starring: Toby Jones, Anne Reid .UK. 1h 40m
Rupert Jones, brother of lead actor Toby Jones, has curated a chilling deep cerebral exploration of an ex-con’s relationship with his domineering mother as he attempts to reason with a new insurrection and the secrets of his past. Kaleidoscope is only shy of being perceived as disturbing, because of TJ’s amazing character portrayal of a shy man searching for love. This down to earth portail is so poignant and beautiful raw, that the mystery surrounding his latest date is ever intertwining through reality and fantasy beings to pale in comparison. Maybe the two brothers working together was one of their best moves or maybe they are both just so brilliant at what they do anyway?
Kaleidoscope is a detailed lesson in controlling an audiences perception, it doesn’t faff around with dynamic cut always or piles on the rewinds and effects, but what seems to evolve as more of a murder mystery than a drama, you’ll be looking for clues and signs as to what’s really going on as reality is constantly shifting around the narrative. For the majority of the movie, everything revolves around a single date night that seems to end with a violent altercation, or was it all a dream? Only so many clues are given, everything is hiding plainly between the lines, but with the addition of each new character there’s another revelation and another layer of mystery and inquiry. The wonderful approach is that everyone is the detective, Carl, is trying to work out what happened to his date, getting strange flashbacks he thinks the worst, he knows what he’s done in his past, he knows what he’s capable of, but all we know is that he’s a con, his crime remains a mystery. A jilted lover is also on the prowl trying to find his girlfriend. Meanwhile Carl hides in his dingy flat and pretends that everything is normal.
Toby is adept at any role he gets thrown into, from a OCD perspective in Frost/Nixon to this range of underestimate quiet guys, proving his understanding and sympathy for this stereotypical odd character, a guy who’s easily taken advantage of , bullied but down to earth, adding the edge of harboring a deep dark secret. Carl is basically Gilderoy from Berberian sound Studio amped up for a Giallo role, and I’d like to add that Berberian Sound Studio would make a great duo with his thriller. Toby is able to convey a range of emotions without saying a word, and his amazing co star Anne Reid, really rocked her wicked mother role, usually seen as a bit of a dithery kind old lady, her darling motherly persona, hiding a chilling iron fisted bitch was a hard pill to swallow. She comes across so innocently and then socks you like a viper. Her character is the feminine version of Maurice (Alun Armstrong) from Possum (2018).
I fully understand why it’s a slog for some viewers. It can be slow as Rupert eases the story out so slowly, each step of the way he busies himself by twisting and torturing the characters up in their own internal hells. There’s a serious ambush of the senses, with sub context that alluded to one definitive outcome, then all of that shifts as we can’t ever imagine our mild mannered convict really being so violent? It’s never clear what Carl has done but he’s nice enough to get his neighbours shopping so he can’t be all bad? Kaleidoscope isn’t about reform, there’s no redemption in the limbo that Carl is floundering in.
“You’ve got a business mans face”
“I’d rather have his wallet”
With a heady Lynchian feel the numerous stops and restarts to the story, there’s never a real conclusion to work from, just lots of myserios clues. Everything about Kaleidoscope is cleverly crafted, from its textured sounds to the meticulous recreation of a dated council flat. The series of post traumatic realities held together making a strange safe place around carl, who seems safer with disposing of a body and dealing with his mother, or was it always all about her?
You’ll end up questioning everything, and possibly will have to watch the movie a few times to grasp all the loose strands, what was real, who is real, and what Carl is capable of… in the trailer you see him looking into a kaleidoscope watching the pieces fall about, but in reality he’s one of those pieces trying to keep his footing as the world around him shifts and changes, but instead of seeing a different pretty pattern Carl find himself at the end of a different crime and red handed each time.
Related: Berberian Sound Studio (2012), Spider (2002), Possum (2018)
Lists: Behind the front door UK Vol 1
Spotlight: Toby Jones