By Michael McNulty
Rupert Jones introduces an interesting film into the psychodrama genre that sits somewhere between Hitchcock’s Psycho and Polanski’s Repulsion. Kaleidoscope is a gruellingly suspenseful chamber piece that delves deep into the cracked psychosis of its central character.
Existing high up in the tight, confines of his bare council flat, ex-convict, Carl (Toby Jones) lives a life of relative urban isolation. He is saving money to buy a van, works as a landscaper and does the shopping for his widowed neighbour, Monique (Cecilia Noble).
Not having been on a date for fifteen years and with the advent of internet dating (perhaps a site like give-an-ex-con-a-chance.com), Carl has organized to meet the young, bubbly Abbey (Sinead Matthews), aka Kittengloves35. Borrowing one of Monique’s late husband’s brightly colour, print shirts, he sets off on a date that sees the two coming back to the flat and it quickly becomes apparent that they are not a match made in heaven. She is a con, cleverly skilled in the ways of clouding lonely men’s minds of logic and reason and emptying their flats of valuables.
A dance and drink later, Carl clocks-on when he finds the kaleidoscope his father gifted him stuffed inside Abby’s handbag. When Carl wakes up the following morning and discovers the body of his hot date dead in the bathroom, he (and we) fall into a maddening world of uncertainty as he tries, frantically, to piece together the events of the evening and get rid of the body. And then his Mother shows up.
Rupert Jones brilliantly crafts a film swirling in a miasma of tension and suspense as the line between reality and fantasy (or nightmare) becomes blurred. The film’s non-linear narrative structure mirrors Carls rapid unravelling and bathes you in a thick cloud of ambiguity that heightens the unsettling atmosphere.
Kaleidoscope also explores the dynamics of a fractured Mother and Son relationship that throws back to Hitchcock’s Norman Bates. Carl’s Mother, Aileen (played to perfection by Anne Reid), is a callously manipulative woman who revels in the quiet torment her presence imposes on her Carl. Although the chasm that splits the two is never explicitly explained, the damage caused by it rears its ugly head and suggests that it may have been the root of Carl’s imprisonment.
The cramped confines of Carl’s council flat, with its patterned wallpaper and dark corners, creates a space that is at both tight and stifling, but free to hide and sneak and Jones capitalizes on this. Toby Jones is on regular form as Carl, his face suspended in a forlorn angst, which shifts between flashes of anger and fear.
Nothing is as it seems in Kaleidoscope, it twists and turns, is perplexing and ambiguous with an atmosphere will envelope you, just like an actual kaleidoscope, it’s fascinating.
Kaleidoscope is in cinemas from Friday 10th November.