Written and directed by Andrew Barker
There are films that get distribution that viewers MUST see because they are good films. Then, there are films that get distribution and fans wonder how on earth THAT happened because the films are crap. Then there are the films that everyone talks about but which never seem to get their fair time in the distribution sun. A Reckoning, written and directed by Andrew Barker and starring Dog Soldiers and The Descent actor, Leslie Simpson, is one such film.
A Reckoning, originally titled Straw Man , is basically a one-man show about a man living all alone in an abandoned village, where he goes to school each day to “teach” the straw children he has created to keep him company and returns to the sty he calls “home”, sometimes pausing to chat with a straw neighbor or two. Is this man living in a post-apocalyptic world? Is he the ultimate loner, withdrawing from society to live as a half-mad hermit? Or is he completely insane? Many questions arise from this film which are answered, in their way, but many more remain unanswered. Who is the ethereal Woman in White (Axelle Carolyn) who comes to The Man when he seems to be on the brink of giving up. Is she an angel or the embodiment of death? Who are the strange creatures who appear as if in a parade through the village; one dressed all in a red robe with what appears to be a beak protruding from where his face should be, like some medieval plague doctor.
The visuals in A Reckoning are almost a third character, after The Man and the village. Shot during England’s worst winter in decades, the snow adds a beauty to the weirdness going on and Director of Photography Adam Krajczynski captures some truly stunning images from everything from the sky to the seaside to the straw people to The Man and The Woman in White. Keep an eye on Krajczynski – his talent should take him far.
Then there is the wonder of this film – watching stage-trained Simpson put on a show that rivals, if not blows away, Sam Rockwell’s performance in Moon. Giving a physically and emotionally shattering performance as The Man, you can only applaud Simpson and what all he must have gone through to portray such a character. He can go from calm, rational-sounding “teacher” to raving madman in no-time flat. But his performance is not off-putting. You really feel sorry for The Man – not knowing how he came to be in the circumstances he is in. There are scenes showing him trying to escape to something or someplace better and the sadness as he marks off how far he made it from the village on his latest attempt is palpable. This role SHOULD get Simpson the recognition he truly deserves as an actor, if the film ever gets the release it SO richly deserves.
I have read that writer/director Barker was first influenced to write A Reckoning after stumbling across an abandoned RAF base in the middle of nowhere. That same RAF base is the village in the film and its creepiness and complete desolation and ruin only add to The Man’s story. Barker’s direction on this film is very subtle – at times it seems as though he just calls “Action” and lets Simpson go for it. But that very kind of direction combined with the stunning cinematography, subtle but effective score and Simpson’s quiet voice-overs all make this a film fans need to demand to see. And discuss and debate.
You can find more information about A Reckoning at its official site or under its original title, Straw Man, on Facebook. Perhaps a petition needs to be started regarding getting this film released – something to present to the producers?
5 out of 5
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