A Patch of Fog: In the midst of an outré friendship
by Giampietro Balia
- An accomplished novelist and academic opinion leader is blackmailed by a lonely security guard into a twisted friendship
Following his Oscar-nominated short Boogaloo and Graham, Irish director Michael Lennox was assisted by production company The Fyzz Facility to stage his feature debut – a low-budget noir thriller lensed by Matthias Pilz and shot over just four weeks on the streets of Belfast. A Patch of Fog [+see also:
film profile] premiered in the Discovery section of the 2015 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival but only recently made its UK debut at the 70th Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Sandy Duffy (Conleth Hill) is an esteemed writer who rose to fame thanks to his bestselling novel A Patch of Fog, which has earned him a Chair at the University of Belfast and turned him into an influential opinion leader in the eyes of the audience of a weekly cultural TV talk show, on which he is a regular guest. For the 25th anniversary of the publishing of his book, Sandy is working on a tell-all interview with Lucy (Lara Pulver), the host of the show, whom he’s having a secret affair with. He lives in a large, modern house and drives an expensive car, but he’s ready to risk it all for the adrenaline rush he derives from shoplifting: he grabs a small-value item and, pretending to answer a phone call he set up before he entered the store, puts the item into his pocket and walks back to his car to smoke a cigarette and take joy in seeing his hands shiver. His method has been tweaked to perfection through dozens of attempts, but what Sandy doesn’t know is that Robert (Stephen Graham), a lonely, troubled security guard at the local retailer where most of his thefts have been perpetrated, has been securing evidence of his activities. If news of his shoplifting addiction got out, Sandy could lose his Chair at the university, and his image in the eyes of public opinion would be compromised forever. He is ready and willing to do anything to keep this from happening, and Robert is prepared to forgo filing a report, but he wants only one simple but bleak thing from Sandy: to be his best friend.
When internationally acclaimed actors step into a low-budget production, one always risks having their names on the film poster but not their performance on screen – but this is not the case here. Despite having been cast only one week prior to starting principal photography, Game of Thrones star Hill reminds us why he’s one of the few Irish actors that made it in Hollywood – his instant chemistry with Graham and his commitment to developing and understanding his character are key to the success of the movie. Graham’s depiction of the deviant security guard is fine-tuned to such an extent that we cease to look at Robert as a stalker and instead start to sympathise with his alienation.
Lennox proves to have mastered the tropes of the thriller genre, and Pilz’s colour palette – mainly shades of black and blue – turns the streets of Belfast into the perfect setting for an exquisite British noir. Scriptwriters John Cairns and Michael McCartney, both first-timers with the long form, have written a very compelling story in which the power switches unexpectedly between characters throughout the whole film. Though we are dealing with a low-budget project, the high production value of the film makes it strong enough to be able to contend with its American counterparts.
A Patch of Fog may possibly be the amuse-bouche that heralds a great feature-film career for Lennox. The movie is an audience favourite, and it is being sold internationally by 13 Films.