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Daphne (2017)

CRUMBLIES…. 4 crumblies

Okay. So – Daphne – this one’s on iTunes and a cracking film for the urban miserablists amongst you… It’s not really one to illuminate middle age, rather one to make you feel grateful for your central heating, loved ones and the countryside.

It is the tale of Daphne – a posh, distant woman making emptiness a growly work of art in her solitary urban life. She doesn’t connect with anyone – albeit she haunts nightclubs, takes drugs like an idiot, and wanders listlessly through sexual encounters that made old Jack pine for a hug and a warm cocoa. Cos that’s what Daphne needs. Really.  Sod the smug philosophy she reads to avoid today’s todayness.

Actually, tell a lie. She sort of connects: there are moments with her sick mother (the glorious Geraldine James) that give off mutual disappointment like two poles repelling; there are moments of cheese – with actual cheese – with Daphne’s boss (the grumpily adoring Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) that teeter close to a sense of humour; and there is a single, almost casual stabbing that kick-starts the changes she needs to make in her life. It comes quite a way into the film, so have a stimulant ready.

Oh yes. Then it begins…

The owner of a small shop gets stabbed by a plot point in a hoodie. Daphne, gloriously disconnected from even this moment, calls the victim a twat when he grasps at her for a moment of humanity. It might be the end and all he wants is to look at a photo of his family. Daphne’s failure haunts her out of her congealed existence. Slowly.

First comes the Voice of God therapist who lobs back every conversational distraction she can muster – and richly deserves a punch in the face for it.

Then comes Daphne’s inelegant jump into nightclub drunkenness and an attempted relationship by the sweetest bouncer on the planet. David, played by Nathaniel Martello-White. He’s adorable and carries the very definite air of a gift from the heavens.  Really. I so wanted them to fall into sentimental love and sing songs in the countryside.

Then comes a restaurant-based sulk that knocks the last of the snow off Mount Daphne. Kind of self-destructive, kind of destroyed by an enemy in the kitchen…Daphne changes. No spiralling. No whiny shit. She glides on without pity.

Is this film good? Absolutely. Splendid, even. Did it teach old Jack anything new? Not really…and certainly nothing the mightily similar yet funny Fleabag didn’t teach me a year ago. But it lands its punches with a spareness and honesty that doesn’t begin to entertain the smugness Fleabag had to keep so carefully at bay.

Emily Beecham (Daphne!) carries off spiky and unreachable with properly attractive style.  She is modernly modern, you know? There are moments where her red hair is caught against the grey of the city streets like the first fallen leaf of autumn.  Remember when being 31 mattered and new days made you jittery? That’s Beecham’s Daphne.

The film – blessed be – also doesn’t do the Alone in the Beautifully Photographed City schtick. For that, I love director Peter Mackie Burns. Unless he was going for that look, in which case – oops.

Watch it? Yes!

Go to iTunes. Rent the thing. It’s modern, nearly realistic, not actively clunky, and carries a central performance that made me want to shake, hug and prod Daphne with enough Jaffa Cakes to bring a smile. Not a great lesson, but it reminded me I can think kind thoughts some days.

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