Emotional fragility is something that a lot of people struggle to deal with the older they get. Not having the mental capacity to deal with hard-hitting subjects or personal relationships, it can leave feelings fractured.
Almost everyone in life will have experienced a time where they have either said the wrong thing or not said anything at all, and it has put a strain on a relationship.
This is something that is at the heart of Nathalie Biancheri's Nocturnal, where we follow a man who clearly is emotionally stunted compared to his age. When we first meet Pete – played brilliantly by up and comer Cosmo Jarvis – we immediately get a sense there isn't something quite right about him, and throughout the narrative, you are constantly questioning whether you should have sympathy for this character who seems to lack emotional maturity.
Your moral compass is really thrown for a loop when he starts to become increasingly obsessed with teenager Laurie (Lauren Coe), who he randomly bumps into at a shop and then starts turning up at her late-night running training sessions.
As a viewer, your knee jerk reaction is to recoil and think this man is a bit of a creep, and Biancheri does an excellent job of walking the tight rope of making Pete seem harmless but also the potential to have predatory instincts.
After some awkward lighthearted exchange between Pete and Laurie – she even jokes calling herself Rose West – a relationship begins to blossom, but Pete's intentions are never clear. As such it almost flips the roles of adult and teen putting Laurie in the more mature position and Pete being the helpless child in their relationship.
As Pete and Laurie's relationship slowly develops, we watch it becomes extremely evident that Pete's childish way of dealing with what he feels creates a barricade between him and everyone he manages to connect with. This all comes to a head when Laurie finally tries to make sexual advances on the man twice her age, but again his inability to vocalise his emotion leads to a painfully awkward scene, where the breakthrough is finally made.
If the performances of Jarvis and Coe didn't already hype up the anxious energy of this film, the lack of soundtrack and the fact for a large part of the film Pete is exclusively shot from behind and we barely see his face helps to build up the awkwardness throughout.
Nocturnal is artfully shot in a way that doesn't feel indulgent in the slightest and gives the viewer the sense of being something extremely intimate as this strange relationship unravels before our eyes.
Dir: Nathalie Biancheri
Scr: Olivia Waring
Prd: Alexandra Breede, Colin Michael Day, Samm Haillay, Chris Hees, Alan McConnell, Assaf Mor, Coco Marie Schneider, David Tomlin
DOP: Michal Dymek
Music: Aaron Cupples
Country: United Kingdom
Run Time: 84 minutes
Nocturnal is in cinemas and available on Curzon Home Cinema from the 18th September 2020