The phrase you are your own worst critic can relate to pretty much any element of one’s life. It does not just have to be based on academics or creativity. We can tear down ourselves on a more personal level becoming self-deprecating and destructive in our own lives for a number of different reasons. It is this idea of self-sabotage that sits at the centre of Jamie Patterson’s film Justine.
The feature focuses on the aforementioned Justine (Tallulah Haddon) a young petty thief with an alcohol problem, as she tires to battle her inner demons. Rather than this being a film that looks at the downfalls of what it means to be an alcoholic, Patterson takes a tender approach to his protagonist. She comes across as confident and cocksure at times, but when she lets her guard down the cracks begin to show and we see the inner turmoil that she is battling with. To set up the kind of person who Justine is, our first glimpse of her is submerged in a bath, battered and bruised, fully clothed. All while her angry landlord is banging on the door. We are then catapulted back three months to follow the journey of what got her there.
As much as this is the story of Justine, it is also about her inability to accept love and support. From her first meeting with Rachel (Sophie Reid) they seem like a bit of an odd couple, but there is a real connection their and Reed puts real heart and apathy into the character.
The pairs whirlwind romance doesn’t go through the typical cinema tropes of highs and lows – no screaming matches, then makeup sex – instead it is very in the moment and real in terms of Justine putting up barriers and not wanting to let this woman fully in. As the film progresses we see the true extent of Justine’s relationship with addiction – always clutching a water bottle full of pure vodka – and how she uses alcohol as a crutch to come across as strong and confident. Inevitably Justine’s self-sabotaging nature takes its toll and her inability to accept the love of Rachel leads her on a downward spiral.
The on-screen chemistry between Haddon and Reid is what gives this otherwise dark film a heart warming feeling. The awkward glances they give each other, the intensity with which they kiss, it gives a real sense of romance blossoming right before the viewer’s eyes. And these tender moments between Justine and Rachel are filmed in warm tones, a world away from the scenes where Justine is alone.
Handheld camerawork throughout gives Justine an intimate feel, as does the fact that we only see the protagonist communicate with others in one-to-one conversations. It isn’t just Justine who is going through this journey, it is us as the viewer as well. Patterson does a great job of not making her out to be a monster, rather someone who is consumed by their addiction and can’t get the monsters out of her.
Dir: Jamie Patterson
Scr: Jeff Murphy
Music: Richey Rynkowski
Running time: 85 minutes
RELEASED ON DEMAND 5th MARCH EXCLUSIVELY ON CURZON HOME CINEMA