The Party’s Just Beginning review: Karen Gillan’s feature directorial debut

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Karen Gillan’s feature directorial debut is an impressive one – here’s our review of The Party’s Just Beginning.

No one really knows what they’re doing, do they? Not really. As children, we think the adults know exactly what’s what. We imagine we’ll be aged 25, a married homeowner with a flock of children. We imagine we’ll be happy. And then we become an adult ourselves and that’s when we realise: they didn’t know what they were doing at all. In recent years, there seems to have been a spate of films, TV shows and books that reflect this reality – with Fleabag being at the front of this zeitgeist of confessional drama that refuses to sugar-coat the fact that sometimes life really can be a bit shit.

Making her directorial debut, Karen Gillian provides us with a film that has a smattering of similarities with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s iconic play turned TV show. Both centre on what is often referred to as an ‘unlikeable woman’ – a female lead who is flawed, lost, impulsive, scarred by life, deeply hurt and therefore sometimes lashes out at other people. Arguably that just makes her a real person with depth as opposed to a singular idealised figure, but the distinction perhaps is her seeming lack of care for herself and others.

It’s a description that more than applies to the protagonist of The Party… Liusaidh (played by Gillian, who also wrote the screenplay as well as directs here) is grieving her best friend Alistair (Matthew Beard) who took his own life. The film weaves between the now, her life without the person she loved the most, and the key moments in the past that lead up to his suicide. Utilising such a distinctive approach to storytelling, the story feels all the more potent whilst also marking Gillian as a real talent with a whole lot of promise. By contrasting Liusaidh at her most destructive, inflicting all manners of pain upon herself with little care, alongside how things once were with Alistair at her side, it makes the grief and trauma she is experiencing that much more visceral and potent. It also empathises her regret and her inability to fix things that perhaps should have gone a different way.

The end result is a film with a lot to say about people, and whether we ever fully know what’s going on under the surface. We also have a film that suggests Gillian has a creative voice that we should very much be paying attention to.

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