Morvern Callar is a bizarre film. At times deeply
sad, at times profoundly disturbing but always highly original
in its story, it is sure to polarize audiences. Some will
throw around the "P" word—pretentious—while others
will love this film in all its strange glory. But in the end
this is a good film and it deserves to be seen.
Writer/director Lynne Ramsey, whose first film Ratcatcher
won several awards back in 2000, leads us into the world of
a young Scottish woman, Morvern Callar (Morton). She
wakes up on Christmas to find her boyfriend has committed
suicide and left her his completed novel, which he asks her
to send to publishers. Apparently in shock, much time goes
by before we hear Morvern utter her first words in the picture,
but soon we realize that this is the way she lives. She is
a very introspective woman who seems to be in a perpetual
state of contemplation, never doing anything quickly.
Leaving the body in her house, Morvern goes out and meets
her best friend, Lanna (McDermott) and attempts to
get her mind off the situation at home. They go to a rave,
but she can find no answers here. Morvern must come to terms
with herself out in the larger world.
This film has a wonderful score, and is well acted by all
the supporting cast members, especially McDermott, who helps
to ground the slightly off-kilter events with a wonderfully
simple realism. The direction is assured and the script well
written, but in a film of this nature it all comes down to
the leading actress’s performance. Luckily here we have Samantha
Morton, who was so wonderful in Woody Allen's Sweet
And Lowdown, and the major reason that this film succeeds
is that she delivers one of the best physical performances
in many years. Morvern does not speak more than a handful
of lines in this film, and there’s no narrator, but just watch
her face. That beautifully expressive face tells you everything
you could possibly need to know about Morvern Callar. It’s
all there, in her eyes, on her face, the mysteries of this
film are all solved in the wonderfully expressive silent moments.
As a caveat, if you don't enjoy films without plots, don’t
see this movie. Morvern Callar begins in the midst
of its story and ends with no real resolution. I believe that
this is done in an effort to be as realistic as possible,
because we are seeing simply this slice of Morvern’s life.
She’s much too complicated to have all her story told in less
than two hours. It leaves you asking questions, but they are
the things you can never know about another person's life.
That’s not to say the film is without its share of faults.
While it is an examination of a very unusual person, at times
the film veers for a few moments into a little too much oddness,
though it is quickly set back on track. It is also a slow-paced
examination of a life, so check your MTV attention span at
This description does little justice to the piece of art
that Lynne Ramsey and company have put up on the screen. To
see this film is to have a unique experience at the movies,
and it will stay with you for some time.