ELECTRICITY [2014]

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Directed by Bryn Higgins, Written by Joe Fisher (screenplay), Ray Robinson (novel)

Starring: Paul Anderson, Christian Cooke, Lenora CrichlowAlice Lowe and Agyness Deyn

“Temporal lobe epilepsy can be best described as a thunderstorm raging inside the mind” – my doc

Wow, if ever I could have the perfect two movies to identify with, one after the other, it was the last movie I saw, Infinitely Polar Bear, and a British drama by the name of Electricity. An apt title for a film if there ever was one. The tone of the two films couldn’t be more different though. One is a tale of redemption, a man trying to win his family back while struggling with bi-polar disorder in a time where it wasn’t understood like it is today. This however is a much more bleak, depressing film that reminded me of Trainspotting more than once as a girl with epilepsy is forced to live under the constant dread that she will have a seizure. She is trying to find her brother, who she hasn’t seen since he was taken to juvie when she was 17, and she has never left the safety of her small town where she has people who understand her condition. However, their mother has died, and there is money to be divided up. Hence Lily’s desperate journey to find her lost brother.

The best thing about this film is that the epilepsy isn’t all this movie is focusing on. It is actually used as an inventive way to create tension….. Sometimes an oncoming seizure is predictable, but this seems intended at times, as the threat of another seizure constantly looms over the Lily’s  journey and effectively puts you in the position she is. Dread looms constantly over her journey, which is apt as one of the worst symptoms of TLE that I have experienced is exactly that: a consistent sense of dread. When she does have a seizure, the sound numbs, the visuals distort, and on occasion she will narrate what she is thinking, which is completely opposed to her behaviour, which she now does not have control over. Seizures are more than a convulsion, they can often (and usually) trigger a severe personality shake-up and sudden, out-of-character behaviour. Narration is also used effectively when she talks of the routine of medication, and what it does to her personality when she is forced to change medication. I got chills many times during this movie, it’s up there with Requiem for a Dream in how much it got to me in terms of its realism and the way it brought about a sense of familiarity of bad experiences and memories of my own. When she argues with doctors, I am hearing myself, I am hearing so many medications that I am on or have been on at some point in my life. I am hearing the same frustration in her voice. It is realistic and gritty, making for an intense watch for me, and looking from the outside, I imagine this very effectively puts the viewer in that position of what it feels like to live under that constant dread and fear of seizures.

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This is the scene where the movie begins, and the expression on her face, plus the reflections of bright lights, is a very apt visual metaphor for what living with TLE is like.. lost in thought, lights and colours intensified

Another part of epilepsy that the film portrays, perhaps too bluntly, but unfortunately again realistic, are the reactions of many when they see a person have a seizure. Lily herself uses words like ‘spaz’ more than once to describe herself – she is used to it. When a person is nice to her, and doesn’t mind about the seizures, it moves Lily so much that she is almost speechless. I have lost count of the amount of people who just couldn’t put up with my bullshit anymore, so I could again certainly relate to this scene and felt what Lily felt, the amazing sense of gratitude simply because someone is nice, and more importantly doesn’t care about the epilepsy. Again shown in the film, epilepsy is always something that I try to hide when meeting new people, but it never seems to let any relationship work. Hence the overwhelming sense of gratitude, just for a friendship.

The FX department may have gone a little overboard with the hallucinations, but, when they warp the vision and distort the visuals and audio in strange ways it is extremely effective, again very real, and for me, quite chilling. I was stunned at the accuracy up to a point. They just took it a little far, but this doesn’t really affect the movie negatively too much.

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At its core this is a movie about epilepsy, of course, but the narrative of a sister trying to find a lost brother is touching. The way this story pans out though can be hard to stomach, it isn’t an easy journey for Lily as this journey of course has the constant threat of a seizure. This again reminds me of Trainspotting in is raw depiction of fractured people, for whom every day is a mental struggle. Some relief from the depression comes in the form of Lily’s brother, a charismatic card player of some kind, a man who has dollar signs for eyeballs. His character arc, as well as Lily’s, is interesting and very well written.

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Apparently the lead actress,  (above) is a model-turned-actor, Agyness Deyn. Could have fooled me! I had never heard of her but was thoroughly convinced by her depiction of a type of epilepsy that I deal with every day. The narration, the way she is too trusting, the fact that she can’t believe that someone will put up with it all… These aspects couldn’t have been more accurate. The frustration in her voice and narration…. I could go on, but for a performance from a model-turned-actor, in an emotionally heavy drama… she was almost flawless. She had a great cast and an extremely well-written script to work with, and she took full advantage of this and nailed it. The supporting actors playing her brothers (Christian Cooke, Paul Anderson) and a friend she meets on her journey to find her brother (Lenora Crichlow) are also great. But Deyn is in almost every scene here and does a fantastic job. The story is moving, as is her performance.

4/5 – This is emotional drama done right, the story becoming more interesting as we find out more about the lost brother Lily is trying to find. This simple but effective story, combined with the realistic depiction of epilepsy and the avalanche of symptoms and barriers than come along with the ride, make for a heavy and tense emotional drama, perhaps a notch down from movies like Trainspotting and Requiem For A Dream in terms of that gritty realism. Regardless of the epilepsy involved, this is my sort of film – heavy, well-written emotional drama. It seems rare these days. If I could point out a flaw is the FX department taking it a tad to far, that and a seemingly absent score. But neither affect the film in a significant way. A terrific film, highly recommended.