Prevenge is the directorial debut of Alice Lowe, probably best-known as Steve Oram’s other half, Tina, in Ben Wheatley’s murderous road-tripper Sightseers. Lowe and Oram co-wrote that film but Prevenge really is Lowe’s baby (sorry) – she wrote and directed the film as well as starring as the lead, filmed while she was, quite obviously, heavily pregnant. Lowe plays Ruth, a bereaved partner who lost her baby’s father in a climbing accident. Her unborn child speaks to her – impolitely – and urges her to take revenge on the group of people she holds responsible for her father’s death.
Thus we see Ruth set out on a killing spree, which is difficult enough when you’re not with child. The supporting cast of victims and near-misses is wonderful: Dan Renton Skinner (High Rise), Kayvan Novak (Four Lions), Tom Davis (Free Fire), Kate Dickie and Gemma Whelan (both Game of Thrones). Some of her quarry need to be seduced; some need to accept private business meetings; some need to be charmed into inviting Ruth into their homes. Happily this lets Lowe show off her considerable comic and dramatic range – the seduction of DJ Dan (Tom Davis) in particular is marvellous. Lowe has a lovely air of childlike vulnerability, but can somehow switch gears to indestructible oversized killing machine with just a look.
It’s not all played for laughs though; Ruth’s fear and confusion in the face of a hostile takeover of her own body, by an entity she herself is incubating, is probably beyond the wit of male writer/directors and takes some serious dramatic chops to pull off. Although Prevenge is a dark comedy, the darkness occasionally reaches deep subterranean proportions, with essential body parts lopped off while confused elderly relatives wander around blithely. Blood and vomit are main characters too, which is to be expected in a film about pregnancy and murder.
There is plenty of levity to be had; stab-happy Ruth only shows her vulnerability when chatting to her breezy NHS maternity specialist (Jo Hartley) about the looming birth, at which point ‘baby’ will take over her life. The shifts in tone are quick and unexpected, and shepherded along superbly by the fantastic score from Toydrum. Its an odd film, and an even stranger choice for a directorial debut, somehow achieved while the director, writer and star was literally growing a person inside her. I haven’t been as impressed by a British actor-turned-director’s debut since Paddy Considine blew me away with Tyrannosaur, and believe me, you’ll have more fun watching Prevenge. Baby knows best …
Prevenge is currently showing at selected theatres in the UK. For more details on the film including screens and showtimes, visit www.prevengemovie.co.uk.