Tue. Jul 5th, 2022

British director Harry Wootliff’s relatively little-seen but well-liked 2018 debut film Only You revolved around a romantic relationship in which the woman was a little older than the man and they ended up having fertility problems, a common real-life situation seldom explored in cinema. For her second feature, the woozy, intoxicating True Thingsadapted from a novel by Deborah Kay Davies, she circles a destructive erotic obsession, the sort where ghosting, stalking and mind games are as integral to the thrill as sex in car parks and a lover’s musky smell.

That amour fou dynamic is perfectly recognizable from other movies, yet rarely shown from a female point of view. So here’s to Wootliff, her crew (especially cinematographer Ashley Connor) and, above all, star Ruth Wilson, who collectively captures the craziness of this sort of fling in all its ineffable, grubby glory.

Visible in nearly every variably focused frame, and sometimes seen in extreme, pore-examining close-up, Wilson plays Kate, a middle-class woman with a barely hidden wild streak. She processes benefits claims in an office in Margate, south-east England, and is already on thin ice with her boss for always being late. One day, a sexy bit-of-rough client with bleached blond hair and a prison record (Tom Burke of The Souvenir) shows up at her desk and asks her out for lunch. In a matter of hours, they’re having the aforementioned car-park knee-trembler.

Over a few days or weeks – time is quite elastic here – they’re in what Prince called “a strange relationship”, not quite boyfriend-girlfriend territory, let alone partners. You might call them friends with benefits except they hardly seem to be friends and the benefits, apart from the sex and shared drugs, mostly all flow one way. Kate’s life starts to fall apart but not as badly as you might expect. In fact, although the ending is somewhat pat, Kate at least isn’t left punished for promiscuity, just poorer and a little sore.

★★★★ ☆

In UK cinemas from April 1

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