Review by Sean Boelman
Written and directed by Claire Oakley, Make Up is an atmospheric new thriller set in coastal England. However, even though Oakley does a wonderful job behind the camera at setting up an admirably eerie tone, the script is a bit too conventional for the film to be as profound as it seems to hope to be.
The movie tells the story of a young woman who begins to find her mentality tested when she suspects that her boyfriend has been cheating on her with a mysterious and alluring stranger. Ultimately, the film follows a pattern similar to any other erotic/romantic thriller, albeit with a more refined visual style and some more ambitious themes.
This is very much a slow burn, and that pacing does end up feeling slightly trying. There are enough bursts of excitement that the movie will keep the viewer’s interest, but the film doesn’t always build suspense in the most natural way. The atmosphere is definitely good, but Oakley unfortunately falls back on shock value a bit too often.
Additionally, Oakley’s film doesn’t have a whole lot of deeper subtext. Oakley obviously has an interesting voice, but it will be better served finding something more unique to say. The movie’s messages about jealousy and identity don’t go particularly deep beyond the surface. Some more subtlety would’ve gone a long way in making the film work a lot better.
The character development in the movie is solid but not exceptional. The film’s protagonist is compelling enough to give the story a necessary foundation, and she has an intriguing arc, but there isn’t much depth to her beyond her general archetype. The supporting characters are even more underdeveloped and flat.
Arguably the movie’s greatest strength is its lead actress, Molly Windsor. Her performance infuses the film with a great deal of empathy that the somewhat generic storyline is lacking. The amount of range she is able to bring to her performance goes a long way in making the character much more relatable than she otherwise would be.
Additionally, Oakley has a great deal of talent behind the camera. Even though the script is disappointingly lacking in momentum, Oakley’s obvious visual style allows the movie to stay afloat. The cinematography by Nick Cooke is often dreamy and gorgeous, and the music by Ben Salisbury is haunting, giving the film its rhythm.
As her directorial debut, Claire Oakley’s movie Make Up shows a lot of potential. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t have quite enough to say, and doesn’t say it in a compelling enough way, for the film to be riveting, but it proves that we have more to see from Oakley yet.
Make Up was set to screen at the cancelled 2020 SXSW Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.