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Bad Behaviour (Film Review)

3 min read

Icon Film Channel

“Wellbeing” and “self-care” have become buzzwords in our modern-day lexicon. Although that might be considered a positive intervention, it can end up being wielded by capitalists and self-certified shamans to peddle more of their products. So on paper, Bad Behaviour seems like an apt time to bring a edge to the world of wellbeing retreats. Combined with an introspective look into a troubled mother-daughter relationship, you could think we have a recipe for an enthralling movie. Sadly, we have no such concoction in this directorial debut from , the daughter of director Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog). 

Englert multi-tasks as director and writer of Bad Behaviour by also acting as Dylan, the daughter of Lucy (). Lucy is a 40-something who checks herself into a semi-silent retreat in Oregon, hosted by Elon Bello () who spouts vacuous notions of self-healing while sneaking cigarettes behind wheelie bins. We gather that Lucy signed up to the retreat to help her repair from a spiky marriage, a turbulent upbringing as a child actress and issues with her mother. 

Dylan is an eccentric stunt woman based in New Zealand, who enjoys her day job practising scenes where she is fake-strangled by her co-star or practising falling down stairs without breaking a bone. The camera regularly cuts between Dylan's life on a movie set and Lucy at the retreat.  Lucy becomes increasingly annoyed by one of the retreat's other participants, Beverly (Dasha Nekrasova); a young model, DJ and social media influencer who is blighted by her narcissism. 

Bad Behaviour feels like a film of two halves; the first part feels so frustratingly slow and aimless that you wonder whether it's worth continuing. Luckily, it reels you back in from abject disappointment when we see the irritations at the retreat build into a melodrama.  From that moment begins, what feels like a second film where Lucy inexplicably becomes a different character. Although this could have been intentional in showing that she'd always had this dark side bottled up, it felt contrived to suddenly paint her character as deranged without enough of a story arc before that. 

Dylan comes to her mother's side in Oregon to offer support. We learn more of why their relationship is strained in their interactions and these do offer a few poignant moments. But it's short-lived because it seems the film just can't help going back into its meandering and incoherent path. Where scenes were supposed to be ironic and comedic, they ended up feeling self-indulgent and superfluous such as when Elon Bello randomly appears, without context, in a cave in the middle of a scene when Dylan is looking for her mother in the forest. There are other parts seemingly chucked in for the sake of it, like the short animated sequence in the middle of the film. It catches you off guard and not in a good way. 

 Alice Englert herself does a fantastic job at playing the chaotic Dylan and Connelly manages to weave gold out of a nondescript storyline through sheer talent. Whishaw also redeems at playing the superficial, slightly unhinged, retreat host. Considering the experienced cast, this film should have delivered much more than it does but it felt mostly adrift, much like its characters. Depending on which way your humour leans and your appetite for patience, this is a marmite watch, so be warned. 

Bad Behaviour premieres exclusively on the Icon Film Channel on 4 December 2023 and released in UK cinemas from 5 January 2024