A Field in England ★★★★

Ghoul Britannia - The British Horror Months

I'm just as surprised as you, really.

I know this might sound odd from someone who thought Ben Wheatley's previous three films were awful, dreadful and "extremely boring" but I actually was quite looking forward to A Field In England.

The consensus was that if I hated Wheatley's previous films then I would certainly hate this as well, but I didn't see it that way. Knowing that Wheatley was moving away from his formula of squalid arseholes talking shit and occasionally horribly murdering people, I thought this might be his opportunity to show me that there may still be a chance for him to make something that I actually found appealing. By jove he did it as well.

I didn't find A Field In England to be the incomprehensible muddle that most people seemed to find it. Certainly there are chunks of it that can't easily be explained and many have, quite reasonably, suggested that the ingesting of mushrooms could easily be a convenient way of explaining away some absolute nonsense that may be in this film.

That's fair enough but I thought there was enough logic and well constructed levels of suggestion here for me to give it more than a free pass. I didn't find it at all dull either, thanks to some inventive melding together of 'ye olde English' and more modern sounding turns of phrase (this is how you do it, Your Highness, you toilet) and some exceptionally good performances.

I've only really happened across Reece Shearsmith intermittently during his TV career - he's one of those actors who I like but have never really been massively drawn to anything he's done. Although, in fairness, I just don't watch TV these days full stop, which also has a lot to do with missing him. But I thought he was absolutely superb in this - one of those performances where the mannerisms and delivery just seem to be completely spot on. It was a fantastic performance that I could not take my eyes off.

Also, Peter Ferdinando is almost equally superb. This wasn't as much of a revelation to me as I was captivated by him in Tony as well, but these two performances, coupled particularly to another strong Michael Smiley turn, really do keep this film moving along during the many slower moments that A Field In England has.

As much as this film is likely to have an almost imperceptible quality to many of those that really like it that just eludes many others, there were two segments in the film that are absolutely extraordinary and likely to stick in my mind for a long time. Shearsmith's slow motion 'walk' after a visit to Smiley's tent is bizarre, unsettling and quite exceptional, as are the last 10 minutes or so.

I don't really know what Wheatley was trying to do with this film and actually I do think I might like it considerably less if I found out exactly what it was he was trying to do. The mysteries of A Field In England were many and plentiful for me - one of them wasn't that it has received a distinctly mixed reception as I can totally understand that, but the main one is whether Wheatley has done enough with this to warrant me giving him another chance. Hmm.