The War Zone

Year: 1999
Production Co: FilmFour
Director: Tim Roth
Cast: Ray Winstone, Tilda Swinton, Lara Belmont, Freddie Cunliffe, Colin Farrell
I expected a horrific, brutal, upsetting movie much like Nil By Mouth, but Tim Roth's love letter to the morally impoverished backwaters of England was a lot less confronting in its execution if not its premise.

A simple but seemingly loving family of two parents and two teens with a new arrival on the way live in the rural south of England on a grey, windswept coast.

Daughter Jessie (Belmont) is beautiful and with several fully frontal nude scenes, you feel slightly revolted and guilty to find her so sexy considering what turns out has been happening to her for God knows how long.

Every time Ray Winstone's boisterous frame filled the screen I expected am outburst similar to that which made Nil By Mouth so harrowing, but he seemed every bit the loving father trying to keep his growing family together in the bleak landscape.

It turns out he's more of a monster than Nil By Mouth's Ray ever could be, and even when we see him committing such an unspeakable act, we hardly see his face, as if everyone from Jessie to her brother Tom – watching from outside after following them – to ourselves want to shut the reality out.

Tom knows what's going on before he witnesses what everyone calls 'the bunker scene', and his increasing disgust makes him sullen and withdrawn, the kids' Mum (Swinton) hardly realising with a new baby to look after.

Despite the misery, rain, horror and heartbreak, it's a love story of sorts – I think Tom loves his sister and only wants to protect her from what's going on, with no idea how to do it, whether it's exposing the secret or holding his sister down and wrestling her with his frustration at not knowing what to do.

When he does confront their Dad, Winstone reacts as if he's bipolar or psychotic, not believing what his son's telling him, not admitting for a minute or showing any remorse to the extent we think he really doesn't have any idea what he's done.

I've never seen Belmont since which is a shame since she was something very special despite her beauty, and yes, that young guy she takes to the beach is a young Colin Farrell.

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