Ruth Wilson leads True Things, a complex character-driven drama examining a doomed to fail relationship and its destructive consequences. Harry Wootliff directs and co-writes with Molly Davies, adapting the 2011 novel True Things About Me from Deborah Kay Davies. Joined by Tom Burke, Wilson’s slow-burning performance captures the ups and downs of addictively damaging relationship dynamics.
Isolated Kate (Wilson) is a distant participant in her own life, working in an unrewarding administrative job and lacking any meaningful relationships. Upon meeting recently released prisoner Blond (Burke), she’s charmed by his cocky demeanour and rugged persona, venturing into a chaotic erotic relationship with the unreliable suitor. Whilst Kate tries to fit Blond into the romantic other-half role, the consequences of doing so are destructive, spiralling the woman’s life further out of control.
Wilson’s past role in the erotically-charged The Affair may spring to mind, yet True Things is a very different beast. Opening by giving us a hazy taster of the raunchy connection between Kate and Blond, we get a sense of the erotically-charged dynamic between the pair – blurred shots of body parts and breathy noises – yet viewers will be well aware that in this type of narrative, sexual chemistry does not always equate to successful relationship dynamics. The feature then shifts back, exploring Kate’s mundane work environment – where she’s repeatedly scolded by bosses and harassed by aggressive clients. It’s a sharp contrast to the hazy outdoor love scene witnessed, capturing Kate’s already uninspired standard of life.
This sense of lack of stakes is an interesting one. With Kate’s life being in such a mundane and lonely state, True Things captures a woman with nothing to lose by taking a chance on a risky romance . Yet Wilson is so charismatic, we are invested in her character’s journey and whilst she may not have much to lose initially, we want things to work out for her. Wootliff crafts the ups and downs of Kate’s journey with an absorbingly naturalistic style, heightened by Director of Photography Ashley Connor’s sensitive cinematography – we see the bright airy visuals of Kate’s initial scenes with Blond contrasted with the dour interiors of her work and home life.
True Things steps into gear as it begins centring on the destructive, toxic nature of Kate and Blond’s relationship. Scenes of Blond borrowing Kate’s car and vanishing for a few days and some brutally unpleasant exchanges towards her, and her continued willingness to bend over backwards and take him back add a troubling sadness to the feature. Kate’s move to a more dangerous hedonistic lifestyle through the presence of Blond allows Wootliff to play with some quietly unsettling moments such as Kate trying a stranger’s drugs at house party or her overtly sexualised behaviour on a date with another man.
The quiet psychologically abusive notes that creep throughout in Blond’s treatment of Kate are delivered in an uneasy slow-burning manner, making Kate’s subsequent behaviour even harder to watch. Blond’s viewing of Kate as a mere distraction, whilst Kate tries to mould him into a romantic partner presents a very one-sided, damaging relationship. Yet the film’s last act sees a new dimension explored in the character of Kate which makes more a slightly more rewarding and hopeful turn of events.
Burke’s performance is a stark contrast from his scene-stealing turn as the charming luvvie in Oliver Hermanus’s Sundance hit Living – impresses in boldly capturing Blond’s manipulative and uncaring attitude towards Kate. Burke carefully allows us to see that there is some slight feeling in his relationship with Kate, yet its never clear if this is deeper than sexual toying.
True Things can be tough to watch as its protagonist is manipulated down a self-destructive route, but complex turns from Wilson and Burke and slow-burning direction from Wootcliff ensure this is an absorbing, powerful watch.