Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
For much of Red Road, the protagonist’s emotional stability is in question. Jackie (Kate Dickie) is a Glasgow, Scotland, security guard, keeping an eye on the city via closed-circuit TV. The job is usually as monotonous as her reclusive life—occasionally a dog or a couple going at it on the monitors will make her smile, but mostly she’s zooming in on a whole lot of nothing. She receives a visual slap, though, when she spots a man she recognizes and becomes obsessed with following him, both with the cameras and, more dangerously, on foot. The feature debut of Oscar-winning writer-director Andrea Arnold, Red Road is the first in a planned trilogy in which three new filmmakers are given descriptions of the same main characters (by Anders Thomas Jensen and Lone Scherfig) and asked to fashion a story connecting them. Both Red Road leads, Dickie and Tony Curran (who plays Clyde, the mystery man) will appear in all the movies, and Arnold has gotten the series off to a good start. Red Road is cryptic and eerily quiet as Jackie goes about her days. Very little information is given about Clyde: We know he’s been in prison, and we know that Jackie is disturbed that he’s out. As she skulks around corners and holds her head down while trailing him, it increasingly seems as if Jackie has lost her damn mind. Her obsession becomes so consuming that she misses the stabbing of a young girl because she was fixated on Clyde. Off duty, she’s so willing to enter the danger zone that she even talks to Clyde’s friends and attends one of his parties, the details of which she pieced together in her spying. The only glimpse of Jackie’s personal life is through an invitation to a wedding, which we find out is her sister-in-law’s. A man who can only be her father-in-law—obviously both are former in-laws—has a strained relationship with Jackie, and it’s because, well, she knows why. The few supporting characters in Red Road are seedy, adding to the film’s bleak tone. There’s Jackie’s hit-and-run boyfriend, who takes her to a field in his truck for 10-minute dates that she doesn’t seem too happy about. We spend the most time, though, with Clyde’s hotheaded fuck-up friend, Stevie (Martin Compston), and Stevie’s spaced-out girlfriend, April (Natalie Press). Stevie steals Jackie’s purse, gets into bar fights, and spends the whole day drinking, loudening the alarm that she should stay the hell out of Clyde’s world. (The fact that Dickie looks a good 10 years older than these two only makes their interactions more uncomfortable.) Dickie is understated and natural as Jackie, and Curran is a particularly inspired choice for Clyde. A curly-haired redhead with a bit of a baby face, the actor looks more like a frat boy than a typical movie villain. It’s all tantalizingly misleading, and though you’ll probably figure out the story before its end, Red Road is satisfying nonetheless. And don’t scoff at the film’s subtitles: It may seem ridiculous to translate accented English, but considering the thick Glaswegian burrs, it turns out to be a relief to have only one mystery to solve.