Sheila? I hardly knew ‘er!

Last night we watched The Last of Sheila, a movie I’d never heard of until seeing it recommended somewhere (possibly Rotten Tomatoes). It’s kind of like Cluedo on a boat in some ways, but a fair bit more intricate – based around a guy trying to work out who killed his wife by having the six suspects play an elaborate game each night.

It’s really a pretty decent movie, and particularly good if you like trying to work things out as they go along. It twists and turns a bunch though, and I was never really ahead of the game at all – not that I’m great at that sort of thing.

What was deeply odd about it, though, was the characters’ reactions to traumatic events. Basically, they didn’t have any to speak of. The most notable moment of visceral reaction was in a near-death encounter with the boat’s propeller, but the rest of the time they were as flat as you can imagine.

In particular, two major characters die in the movie and all the other react as if nothing much has occurred. Maybe we could accept this from one character if, say, they’re a psychopath – but no one seems to give a shit about people they know well dying. It’s really quite surreal to see them all disinterestedly examining dead bodies or sitting around later on drinking a scotch and musing neutrally about how the death might have come about. Who are these people?

So, the move’s plot is rather well done, but the emotional pitch of it is a total mess. Fortunately, this kind of adds to the surreality of the whole thing, so it ultimately works – but I really have never seen such a lack of interest in portraying emotional responses to trauma in a movie like this. It’s quite incredible.

25 July 2010
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