EIFF 10: Cherry Tree Lane Review

By Stuart Wood 2010-06-19 06:01:16discussion comments
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Cherry Tree Lane is a bit of an oddball psychological thriller. Presented in real-time, it deals with a not-exactly-happily married couple who find their home invaded and themselves at the mercy of a trio of gang members out for revenge against their teenaged son.

My feelings towards Cherry Tree Lane are fairly conflicted. It has an interesting concept and is visually well presented but doesn't seem to quite know what to do with itself, resulting in a cast of fairly unlikeable characters, predictable scenarios and what remains in my mind as a rather surreal and silly ending.

The real-time scenario does allow a certain tension to build as the situation escalates, now and again broken up by the realistically laddish back-and-forth between the unlikely invaders. Panic Room this is not. However, the screenplay writes the characters into such a corner, then deliberately prevents them from taking action (in one scene, the father bound and left alone, instead of rolling on to his feet, inexplicably flails around the floor like a dying fish), that you wonder if the screenwriter hated his own characters so much he didn't want to provide them with any possible way out. Providing so little hope for the protagonists leaves the nasty taste of a snuff movie in your mouth rather than a thriller lingering over proceedings.

It's clear that writer/director Paul Andrew Williams wanted to try something new and perhaps present a harder-edged, less outlandish version of the usual Hollywood “terrorised people overcoming their attackers” scenario. However, there is one particular problem with this theory and it exists if you have seen either version of Michael Haneke's Funny Games. In that, Haneke ruthlessly dissected Hollywood conventions and viewer expectations in horror/thriller movies using a similar home invasion conceit, making it hard not to think of it as familiar situations play themselves out minus the self-aware dark humor leaving the whole thing feeling a little neutered.

For more coverage from the Edinburgh International Film Festival click here.
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