Don't Look Now
don't look now | nicolas roeg | allan scott | chris bryant | julie christie | donald sutherland | hilary mason | daphne du maurier | based on | novel | drama | thriller | united kingdom | italy | clelia matania | massimo serato | renato scarpa | psychological
Film: Don’t Look Now
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Writer: Allan Scott and Chris Bryant
Starring: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland and Hilary Mason
This was a film I heard about on podcasts I listen to and it really intrigued me. The 1970’s are an era where there are a lot of blank spots in my viewing history and from what I gathered; this film is one of the bests. The official synopsis for this film is a married couple, grieving the recent death of their young daughter, is in Venice when they encounter two elderly sisters, one of whom is psychic and brings a warning from beyond.
We kick this off with a young girl playing outside in a red raincoat. She is Christine Baxter (Sharon Williams). Inside are her parents, Laura (Julie Christie) and John (Donald Sutherland. They’re both quite intelligent from the conversation they’re having and we see that John restores old churches. There’s a slide he is looking at that gets water on it and it gets a red smudge. Something catches his attention and he knows there’s something wrong outside. We also meet Johnny (Nicholas Salter), their other child. John finds their daughter in the water and has drowned. He tries to save her to no avail.
The film then shifts to Venice. John is working on restoring a church and we learn that he isn’t overly happy; he doesn’t think it is as old as he thought. He meets his wife for lunch and we see that their relationship is a bit rocky. He doesn’t seem to be paying attention to her. He goes to open a window and dirt gets into the eye of Wendy (Clelia Matania). Her blind sister, Heather (Hilary Mason), tries to help, but can’t. Laura decides to help as well. It is in the bathroom that Laura learns Heather is psychic. She states that Christine is sitting between her and her husband and is happy.
Laura takes a seat in the bathroom, before returning to John. She then passes out. She is much happier after talking with the two sisters, but John doesn’t believe what they are saying. He tries to keep his wife away from them. All the while, there is a murderer in Venice and someone who is wearing a coat that is a similar height to Christine. How does this all fit together?
So coming in I did have an idea of the story. I knew this couple was dealing with loss, so I’ll start there. They are handling it in much different ways. John is working more than he probably should while Laura is trying to move on. It isn’t until she believes that the two sisters are telling her things they couldn’t know that she starts to be happier. There is a long sex scene between the couple, but it is edited in way that shows them getting ready to go out to dinner. I took this as they are starting to move on with their lives finally, even though John doesn’t believe them.
Something I did find interesting is the murderer that is a subplot to the film. I heard a podcast say that no matter how many times he sees this film, he forgets about that part of the story. I have to admit, I came in looking for it, but I forgot about it in stretches as well. I find this interesting though, because it is important to the story. The title of the film ties in with this for sure.
Going off of this, Heather admits that she normally cannot summon the dead. She does try and ends up having some kind of seizure from it. What is interesting about this, I wonder how much of the events that happen wouldn’t if she doesn’t come into the lives of John and Laura. There is also the interesting angle that John might be psychic as well, but he ignores his abilities.
Now I’m going to warn you, this film is a slow-burn. I would even say that this film is slower than many films to the point where I even noticed it. Interesting though, the tension builds along with the story. I found myself trying to figure things out as they are happening. I would still say the film could be trimmed a bit, but not by much. There are some things that are extremely important and tie back in at different times. I thought the ending was interesting and didn’t necessarily expect it.
I definitely have to commend the acting for this one. Christie is great as the mother who is grieving, but doing a great job of hiding it. She doesn’t really have a job from what I gather, but she is intelligent. She also is in a strange country while not knowing the language and her other child is in school away from her. Sutherland is also great and he buries himself in his work. We see that when he thinks the church isn’t what he though, he is disappointed, like he needs it to be great. Some crazy things happen to him that I found to be interesting. I thought Mason and Matania were solid as the two sisters. The rest of the cast were solid and round out the film for what was needed in building the tension and story.
As for the effects of the film, there really aren’t a lot used. We do get a little bit of blood, which looked a bit orange, but you see that a lot for the era and I love it. There are some effects, which I really hope Sutherland actually did, because that just makes him even better in my eyes. I also thought the film was shot very well and more of the cool things come from the editing for sure.
The last thing to touch on before wrapping up this review would be the score of the film. I thought it was actually really good. It fits the scenes for what was needed and helps to give scenes an uneasy vibe. A lot of things come later in the film, but we do get some spots early on as well. It is one that I will look into finding to listen to while writing.
Now with that said, for my first time watch of this film, I thought it was interesting. There is a story here that isn’t new, but something that is quite sad and realistic. I really like seeing how these people are dealing with the death of a child and then Laura befriending this blind woman to help her with closure. The film is a slow-burn, so keep that in mind. I do think they could have gave us more of the killer angle as it kind of seems pushed to the back until later. The film does have a good feel that is really helped by the great acting. The score is solid and even though there’s not a lot in the way of effects, the ones we do get are good. I also thought the film was shot very well. I think this is a good film and one that I will revisit again now that I know how things play out for sure. I would recommend this film if you like slow-burns for sure.
My Rating: 8 out of 10