Victoria ★★★★½

A cautionary tale on being young and naive, where one girl's search for a good night out and some poor judgement leads her into a waking nightmare. Director Sebastian Schipper has crossbred the conversational authenticity of Richard Linklater's 'Before Sunrise' movies with the intensity and immediacy of Mathieu Kassovitz's 'La Haine', and the result is a humdinger of a picture.

Nothing about 'Victoria' feels designed or gimmicky. The real time long take staging is impressive because you rarely notice that you are watching one unbroken shot, mainly thanks to the naturalistic performances and the absorbing reality of the setting. You lose yourself in the story very quickly. The first 40 minutes unfold at a casual, unhurried pace where the titular character meets a group of drunk guys and proceeds to join them on a journey around the neighbourhood committing minor infractions and getting to know them. It feels like we are genuinely on a risky night out with these people. However, even before the trouble really kicks off, you feel a certain unease. Who are these men? When will the penny drop, and how? Once we know what we're dealing with it becomes an exercise in pure tension of the likes few films rarely manage to generate.

Laia Costa's performance as Victoria is truly magnificent. She projects such a naive sweetness and beguiling curiosity that after spending no more than five minutes with her you cannot bare the thought of her going through anything horrible. Which of course she does, and that is what makes the viewing experience so intense. You genuinely love this girl and wish the best for her. Even her budding romantic interest, played by Frederick Lau, is allowed to express a depth of character and geniality in spite of the fact he is the one who gets her involved in the first place. In an American movie, he would be an out-and-out villain, whereas here he is a complex, fully dimensional character. These feel like real people in a real (albeit insane) situation.

'Victoria' is a masterclass in technical filmmaking, not just because it skillfully pulls off its long take trick with bravura expertise, but also because it constructs a constantly moving and palpable reality that you can completely invest in without ever seeing them drop the ball. This is what cinema was made for and it's a keen reminder that there are still creatives out there pushing the form in new and exciting ways. An absolute must for movie buffs.