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Movie Reviews

Inland ★★★



Director: Fridtjof Ryde

Cast: Rory Alexander, Mark Rylance, Kathryn Hunter, Shaun Dingwall

Released: BFI London Film Festival 2022

22-year-old Fridtjof Ryder makes his debut with the meditative, unorthodox Inland, the tale of a troubled young man who returns to his hometown in the wake of his mother’s disappearance. The film, initially called Black Twist, has been in development for some time, supported by several independent production companies and Mark Rylance’s Shakespeare Road. Therefore, Rylance is one of the star draws, which will draw interest to what may otherwise have flown under the radar, albeit in a supporting turn.

The film has a disjointed narrative built around the impact the disappearance has on our protagonist (Rory Alexander), who seems to have returned from a stint in a psychiatric hospital. This evokes films by David Lynch and bears the influence of psychedelic films. It is an admirable film for a debut, dealing with such lofty films and a loose narrative structure, but the film never gels cohesively enough for its disparate elements to make it a whole.

There is some striking imagery involving statues and what appears to be a brothel, recalling Eyes Wide Shut. The strangely disconnected voiceover from Kathryn Hunter, who is seemingly the missing mother, gives the film a haunting quality but so rarely links to what we see on the screen that it may also belong to another film. Perhaps an element of the lack of cohesion is the film’s lean runtime of just over 80 minutes and its limited budget, as it is a shame such a sense of ambition ultimately feels muddled.

Mark Rylance in Inland

It’s clear Ryder knows the area of Gloucester well and uses the more rural parts of the film well, building a sense of menace and dread with some strong Cinematography from Ravi Doubleday. The eerie atmosphere is impressively captured and makes the premise intriguing. There are also clear nods to folklore, with the Green Man an inspiration.

Mark Rylance being in the film does it a world of good, lighting up the screen whenever he’s on it, and whole Alexander is a brooding and often silent lead; the film longs for when its star name will next make an appearance.

Inland is an incredibly ambitious feature for a debut film, riffing on folklore and shot on a microbudget. Its sense of atmosphere and out there visuals, coupled with the landscape and setting, lend it credit and show that Ryder is a director to look out for. However, budget constraints and its shorter run time mean its tone is often muddled, and the narrative lacks cohesion, with the story’s various threads never aligning how you might expect. The sense of visual and storytelling ambition helps to overcome some of the shortcomings, and newcomer Alexander makes for an engaging protagonist. The appearance of Rylance is, of course, a welcome one. This is a young director with lofty ambition and one who can use this as a springboard to achieve bigger things with his forthcoming films.

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