You Have Been Watching…The Inheritance

There’s little I enjoy more than discovering a film which had passed me by. I remember rumours of a  road movie with a tiny budget being filmed around 2006/7 but thought little about it. However, recently I got a copy of The Inheritance on DVD and realised this was that film. I was really excited as I sat down to watch it. What followed was one of the oddest experiences I have had in front of a screen.
The Inheritance is a tale of David and Fraser, two estranged brothers, played by Tim Barrow and Fraser Sivewright, who are reunited at the funeral of their father and who go on the road to Skye with the promise of collecting their inheritance. On the way they pick up hitchhiker Tara, played by Imogen Toner, and the film, and the brothers, continue towards the fairly predictable end. It is how the film is constructed rather than in the plot that the real drama lies.
It is a film of lovely highs and terrible lows. Directed by Charles Henri Belleville, who obviously knows how to use a camera, the look of the film is always interesting, and at times moving. The burning of a drawing in an open fire, the use of landscape and the claustrophobic tension in the camper van are all great examples to filmmakers as to how to create atmosphere simply. The soundtrack is quite beautiful, reminding me of children’s TV classic The Box of Delights (which still gets dug out every Christmas to watch with my brother). It is the perfect accompaniment to Belleville’s visuals.
The problems are in the acting and dialogue. When they are as bad as this then you are left with a film with major flaws. The banter between the two brothers is obviously supposed to be strained, but is so bad that it almost becomes surreal, bearing little relation to what the other is saying as if someone had skipped a page in the script. Some of the dialogue is aiming to be postmodern in the manner of early Tarantino, with a chat about macaroni pies the most glaring example, but it never really engages and just appears forced and stilted. The appearance of Tara is the first real dramatic diversion, but although she is obviously supposed to come between the two, there is no tangible relationship to break up.

Fraser Sivewright and Imogen Toner struggle manfully with the dialogue, but Tim Barrow, who is also the writer so has no excuse, gives a performance so nuts that it ruins any chance the film has of success. It is no more than the script deserves, but his random shouting, weird interjections and constant baiting of his brother all add up to his being the most annoying on screen character since Rosie Perez in White Men Can’t Jump. David is someone who likes his drugs and drink, but the overacting is something which Nicolas Cage at his most excessive would blanch at. By the end, when matters are supposed to be reaching a dramatic conclusion, I was trying to think what Barrow’s performance reminded me of. It was the the BBC documentary following Tourettes sufferer John Davidson entitled John’s Not Mad.  David, and Barrower, have no such excuse.

Here’s the trailer:
The real surprise in The Inheritance is the brief appearance of Tom Hardy as the brothers’ father, and he is the best thing by a mile. Shot in black and white and close up Hardy manages to steal the film in a matter of minutes. He has gone on to be one of the most charismatic screen presences around, with his performance in Bronson particularly astonishing, but he has also been standout as Bill Sikes in 2007’s TV version of Oliver Twist, as Heathcliffe in Wuthering Heights and as Eames in Inception. He is going to be Bane in the final instalment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy The Dark Night Rises, a role which could place him in the pantheon of screen icons. You can experience his appeal in this interview he gave about the making of The Inheritance

I’m always loathe to overly criticise any film that gets made on such a small budget (reportedly around £5000, which is the most amazing thing about it) and as I say there are redeeming features, but it would be remiss of me to pretend that The Inheritance isn’t tragically flawed. On the cover of the DVD there is a quote which claims the film is Little Miss Sunshine meets The Blue Brothers. I sympathise with that reviewer who obviously struggled to come up with a relevant comparison, but it is not in any way like either of those films, except that it features two brothers in a camper van. However, there is the premise for, and the promise of, an interesting film here. It touches on the themes of the classic Greek tragedies, but by the end not only do you not care about the brothers, you’re kind of glad that it ends as it does.

When weighing up the pluses and minuses I come to the conclusion that this would have a made a really interesting silent movie. The scenes that work are when the two travel in silence and the music and visuals come together to create real atmosphere, and there would have been tension in discovering just where the road was taking the brothers and the audience. Unfortunately as what is going to happen is explained to us in the manner of talking to children, and in A VERY LOUD VOICE, any possibility of dramatic tension is destroyed. It is the missed opportunity that is the real tragedy of The Inheritance.

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