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Can a seemingly happy and loving marriage survive after the husband has been accused of sexual assault? British indie raises uncomfortable questions at the First Feature Competition of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

QUICK AND DIRTY: LIVE FROM TALLINN

Swedish woman Maria (Mirja Turestedt) is in a crisis. She’s a journalist (or, “serious entertainment” as she pens it), who is married to a man accused of rape. Magnus (Thomas W. Gabrielsson) would never do such a thing, she says; they’ve been married for 27 years. But when they return to his native Poland, she discovers a more distasteful side to her spouse, who leers at his friend’s much younger girlfriend, and smokes in a car that is nominally free from tobacco stains. Ultimately, she decides to abandon him, and travels to England, a country she has longed to escape to for some time. Hidden beneath the misty moors, she confronts some uncomfortable truths about her marriage – but everywhere she looks, she sees aspects of her husband.

As narratives go, Unmoored is fairly pedestrian, but Turestedt brings a dimension to the film that’s refreshingly unique. Discussing her past with new found paramour Mark (played with debonair abandon by Kris Hitchen), she admits how easily she fell for her husband’s lies, which might explain why the act comes so easily to her. Indeed, the only person she’s truly honest with is her dog Castor, because in other scenarios she flits from being a militant, hardened feminist, to jejune ingenue depending on who she’s talking to. As the film progresses, we witness a firier side to her, which sits at odds with her burgeoning career as an investigative journalist. When she spots a vehicle in England that’s uncommonly similar to the one driven by her spouse, she gleefully sets it alight, unwittingly putting Mark in the hotseat with the local police.

That Maria can be so wicked yet so charming shows Turestedt’s commitment to her craft, and this is one of the more interesting portraits of the “good girl gone bad” tropes that has soaked cinema since 2012. Unlike Rosamaund Pike’s showier performance in the underwhelming Gone Girl (David Fincher, 2012), Turestedt is much more subterreanean in her work; infiintely more immersed in her grief too. Interestingly, she spends much of the film speaking in English, but there’s a shift in tone when she code switches. Swedish is spoken with herculean confidence; English with charming reticence and mischeviousness. Which is not to discredit Gabrielsson’s portrayal either, who keenly understands the pathos needed to convince his love that this supposed “rape” was nothing more than a drunken encounter.

Strangely enough, I felt the film could have been longer, which might have helped the climax pack a mightier emotional punch, but the undertones presents something that’s uncommonly relatable. I was definitely moved by the conversation Maria enjoyed with the woman – young enough to be her daughter – who has discredited her partner publicly. “I woke up with his sperm in my belly,” Maria is informed. Maria sits in total silence. In fact, I don’t think Turestedt moves an eyelid during the conversation. What Maria and the audience is exposed to the unvarnished truth that haunts so many women across the globe. With any luck, women won’t need to have these kinds of conversations in the future – whatever the outcome of the crime.

Unmoored just premiered at the First Feature Competition of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.


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