Monday 12 August 2019


Available now on digital, this psychological mystery stars Toby Jones as Carl, a lonely former convict dealing with the aftermath of his first date with Abby (Sinead Matthews) when his estranged mother (Anne Reid) makes an unexpected appearance back into his life.

The film opens on a drab living room, Jones waking up on the sofa where he hears a bang at the door with no one there. Trying to recall what happened the night before he finds a broken chair at the bottom of the stairs and, more disturbingly, a dead woman in his bathroom. After setting up this scenario, the film then flashes back to Jones's Carl preparing for his date and talking to his kindly neighbour, borrowing a very loud shirt from her to make a lasting impression. Soon, Carl is back at his flat with his date, Abby, trying to not disturb the neighbours with the loud music she wants to play and not seeing the ulterior motive Abby may have as she rifles through his belongings when he's out of the room. To add to Carl's woes, his answering machine has a message from his mother (Anne Reid), who's in London the following day and wants to visit.

From this set up Kaleidoscope sets up a murder mystery that lives up to the film's tagline, "Murder is a matter of perspective". Has Carl murdered Abby? Why has his mother appeared now, and what has happened to them in the past to make him hate her so much? Carl's scattered memory and mis-memory of events is what drives this story, as he pictures confrontations with Abby and his mother that may or may not have ever happened, like Patrick Bateman and Norman Bates rolled into one with some added Memento thrown in too.

Directed by Rupert Jones (yes, Toby's brother), Kaleidoscope is a stylishly dreary looking film, the furniture in Carl's flat looking like it's been there for decades. There's some nice touches, like the mosaic tiles used in his kitchen, a whirling, eye shaped spiral staircase and a shot that the camera returns to a few times shows the vastness of the block of flats Carl lives in. This labyrinthian visual doesn't allow us to easily pick out where Carl is, and infers the many stories that might be happening is these blocks, the mania of the landscape mirrored in the shirt Jones decides to wear on his date.

The biggest gripe to have with Kaleidoscope is that the central mystery of the film is not as compelling as it is at times confusing. The shifting, rotating visual logic of a real kaleidoscope is not easily transposed onto this story, as Carl struggles to keep a grip on his reality, and the switching presence of Abby and his mother doesn't necessarily make narrative sense, but does make the film something of a head scratcher you won't be able to solve. It's quickly inferred that it was something between Carl and his mother that lead to his prison sentence, the film teasing possibilities that can be seen in the third act when his mother becomes his manipulator once more, shifting their dynamic against his will. Toby Jones is an actor who is always on top form, realising than his perennially put upon face works well in dark, twisted films like this and Berbarian Sound Studios, and as his mother Anne Reid revels in the darkness of her character.

Kaleidoscope is neither as bright, colourful or playful as the children's toy that shares its name, but it's still an intriguing watch with a fine central performance by Jones, even if the machinations around him do become slightly predictable.


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