When it comes to passion projects and coherent filmmaking, there are sometimes odd disparities. There are pitfalls when a director or writer becomes so entrenched in the material that they fail to create a concise or cohesive work. For Tristan Loraine’s A Dark Reflection (2015) the passion that comes through from his credits as writer, director and producer is present but it appears to have clouded the ability to present the audience with a story that is full of faulty wiring and stilted performances. Our heroine is Helen (Georgina Sutcliffe), a journalist recently returned to England from an assignment gone awry in the Middle East.
Her boyfriend, Joe (TJ Herbert) is an air traffic controller who has recently been given leave after an accident at work involving a near-collision of two flights on his watch. Helen takes an active interest when signs of foul play arise as circumstances illuminate the faulty construction and chemical contamination of one airline’s crafts (JaspAir) and the misdeed of its owner, Charles Jaspar (Nicholas Day). Shot in 35mm, A Dark Reflection is, visually, a rich film to watch. The cinematography allows for an effectively bold contrast within the frames, capturing summery suburban Sussex nicely. This is one of the only respites given to the viewers from a consistently disjointed storyline – the most problematic aspect being that the desire to create a high-tension drama is all too visible.
It’s a film that fancies itself to be a bit more high brow than it truly is. Dead-end plot lines – Helen’s work computer is hacked by a JaspAir employee, CEO Ben Tyrell’s (Mark Dymond) ailing daughter may have acquired her illness aboard a JaspAir flight – read as intertextual quotations of the typical plot devices from more prominent spy thriller narratives. The inability to fully realise these moments gives the film a half-baked feeling. Unintentional jocularity and hollowness plague a script which attempts to construct dialogue full of technical terminology that also sounds appropriately urgent but it completely implodes in delivery. Performances struggle beneath the weight of such ambitious material; actors consistently miss their marks. Intentions may be pure but the presentation is under-nourished. The ‘based on true events’ plot should, in theory, continuously mount in suspense (as other films of this investigative thriller are wont to do) but the audience is left wanting. In the end, A Dark Reflection simply stands as an harmless entry into the world of British indie cinema.
Allie Gemmill | @alliegem