Pink Wall review: Tom Cullen’s directorial debut

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Tatiana Maslany and Jay Duplass star in Pink Wall, that arrives in UK cinemas today – here’s our review.

Tom Cullen first gained attention with his breakthrough and award winning (a BIFA for ‘Most Promising Newcomer’) performance in the 2011 Andrew Haigh-directed Weekend. Following starring roles in Downton Abbey, Knightfall and as Guy Fawkes in the Gunpowder mini-series, that ‘Most Promising’ BIFA accolade could not be more evident in his new film Pink Wall, where he not only serves as first-time director, but as producer and writer too.

Following a couple during six years of their relationship through six specific moments in time, via a non-linear narrative, we are initially introduced to Jenna (Tatiana Maslany) and Leon (Jay Duplass) in year four, where every interaction seems to go from break-up potential to make-up potential in a matter of minutes. What transpires over the next 90 minutes is one of the most believable on-screen realisations of a long-term loving, but dysfunctional, relationship – from immediate infatuation following a chance meeting at a nightclub to inevitable fractures along the way. This is an examination of what people say versus what their expressions and actions convey, how the thing that initially drew you to somebody can be the thing that pushes you apart, and essentially what it means to grow up.

Tonally similar to Blue Valentine, albeit slightly less bleak, the film feels fully embedded in reality – a testament to Cullen’s writing and direction. Limited cuts, multiple close-ups, handheld camera work that occasionally moves out of focus, and natural lighting all add to the organic feel of the relationship and allow the audience to really feel the intimacy between the two leads. Maslany, best known for her multi-character work on Orphan Black, is magnetic. The nuances of Jenna are presented in a way rarely seen in female on-screen characterisation, and Maslany takes full advantage – displaying Jenna’s fierce independence and opinionated nature whilst remaining sympathetic, seemingly trapped in a relationship out of a sense of duty. Duplass’s portrayal of Leon is equally multidimensional – played with a soft eager-to-please sweetness, yet with the underlying selfishness of an unambitious Tigger-like man-child, unwelcoming of change.

There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but everything you get from Pink Wall is affecting, heartbreaking and honest, in what is an astonishing directorial debut from Cullen.

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