“What’s the point in being a solider if you can’t protect your own family?“
Directed by George Popov
Starring Daniel Oldroyd, Suzie Frances Garton & Amy Tyger
The Droving is a visually beautiful film showcasing the wonders of North Western England while telling a tale of desperation. It follows Martin (Daniel Oldroyd), a solider who has come back from deployment to find his sister, Megan (Amy Tyger), after she went missing a year ago. Martin starts to lose control as desperation takes over his mental state.
Cumbria, which serves as the backdrop to the film, is absolutely stunning. The rugged landscapes, along with the vibrant animal sound effects throughout the film, help to reinforce the wildness of nature. This helps the audience believe that anything could live out there, maybe even fairies. These images coupled with the music by Matthew Laming in the opening credits sequence creates an eerie suspense that captures the audience from the beginning. However, I do feel the film relies on these images to carry the film and they start to take away from the suspense the film has worked so hard to create.
The detective narrative of the film begins with Martin talking to his sister’s friend, Tess (Suzie Frances Garton). They are standing alone, near an abandoned monument, while the wind is blowing a gale, reminiscent of every spy film where they find somewhere noisy to discuss important information about a mission;
“Anything you can remember. Every little detail helps.“
Unfortunately, the background noise is overpowering which causes the dialogue to become difficult to understand, which is disappointing as this scene sets up the film. (I’ve since been informed that thankfully this has been fixed).
On the other hand, the flashback scenes throughout the film are homely and welcoming. We see a reflection of every family’s Christmas. There is the reading of groan-worthy Christmas cracker jokes, terrible Christmas jumpers and awkward life questions. They allow us to see a ‘before’ image of Martin prior to him becoming troubled by his time serving in the military:
“I came here to forget what I am doing over there. To see you and have a laugh with the family. So just maybe I can take some of that good stuff back with me.”
In the flashback scenes Martin is wearing a cream sweater, whereas in the present Martin only wears black, signalling that Martin after the loss of sister has lost the ‘good stuff’ he was hoping to hang on to.
As Martin begins to search for Megan he eats an apple which indicates the beginning of his downward spiral. Martin finds a hermit living in the hills on a hiking trail that Megan had used before she disappeared. He threatens the very scared old man;
“What I do, is I make people talk, and I’m very good at it...I made them give up their friends, their families and even their God and you think you can stay silent about my own sister?”
Then Martin actually waterboards him. Surely, given the man’s terrified state, a more humane ‘persuasion technique’ could be used, but by this point Martin is clearly lost. He no longer has any empathy. This follows with Martin threatening Tess’ children because she did not tell him that a member of Megan’s hiking group, Simon, had lost their wife several years earlier;
“Do you want me to visit Tom and Pippa? and dissolve their bodies with potassium hydroxide, until they turn into that stuff you pour down your kitchen sink?”
Martin wants to torture Simon, to make him feel the pain that he feels and to pay for what he has done to Megan;
“But it’s not enough. All those horrific things I did to all those people in prisons. For a name or a number. Some of them didn’t even know. But him, a murderer, He killed my sister. He got away easily…Why did he get to do what he did and escape all that pain?”
We can see Martin become the villain in these final moments, as we see Simon is just as desperate as Martin, he only wants to see his wife again. Martin, through his own desperate acts, is following in Simon’s footsteps. He sees the hermit in the hut to learn of the folklore tale of a merchant trading souls and becomes desperate and dangerous enough to fulfil the merchant’s demand;
“What do you want in return?”
The chase scene in the festival, jumping from bloody knife to Martin’s face, to the attractions, all with the banging noises of the festival, is the best scene in the film. It is disconcerting and perfectly captures the audience in how Martin is feeling trying to find the killer, the source of his anguish, before the killer either escapes or kills him.
The Droving is a beautiful and suspenseful piece about the desperation and pain of losing a loved one and I recommend it for your Friday Night viewing.
P.S. Just a little pet hate, please, please, please fill the cups when filming handing out tea. Nothing breaks tension more than “hot tea” mugs being flung around.
The Droving is avaliable on Amazon Prime.
Images provided by Rubicon Films.