By Will Barber Taylor
Suspenseful drama is difficult to do; to create an unnerving sense of unease and suspicion into the mind of an audience can be a complex and difficult process. To adapt the work of a master of this field such as Shirley Jackson is even more problematic. Yet both these feats are achieved – and not only passably achieved but excessively achieved in Tara Fitzgerald’s Nothing Important.
Nothing Important tells the story of Emily Johnson (Rachael Stirling), who having moved back to Britain from overseas attempts to accustom herself to her surroundings. Finding herself in a shabby hotel and waiting to hear from her husband, it soon becomes apparent that one of her fellow residents, Mrs Allen (Linda Marlowe) is not quite what she might at first seem.
Throughout Nothing Important there is a sense of impending dread that is expertly produced by Tara Fitzgerald’s stylish and subtle direction. Fitzgerald understands that a mixture between a reductionist approach and framing the action in a close and intense way allows the viewer to feel both a sense of foreboding whilst also having unease as to what exactly is happening. The tension between knowing something is wrong but, until the brilliantly done final twist, unable to be certain what is the cause of it is at the heart of the drama’s brilliance.
Fitzgerald’s direction fits hand in glove with the script crafted by Chiara Menage. Menage’s chilling realisation of Jackson’s story allows both Jackson’s distinct narrative voice, one which rings with uncertainty about the exact nature of what is happening to her characters, to come to the fore alongside Menage’s own individualistic stroke of horrific genius.
Rachael Stirling gives a fantastic performance as Emily Johnson, a woman uneven and unsure of her surroundings in a place seemingly designed to inspire fear. As with Shirley Jackson’s famous novel The Haunting of Hill House, Emily is beset by circumstances that test her sense of reason and Stirling conveys this to the audience perfectly. Stirling brings a nervous energy to the role which is infectious and draws the audience in to a feeling of alienation. It is this central performance that holds the drama together and ensures that Emily’s reaction to the predicament she finds herself in is natural and yet still chilling.
The music by Joby Talbot is perfectly pitched to emphasise the chilling uncertainty which pervades through the film. Talbot’s score is beautifully realised and gives the film an air of the Tales of the Unexpected; his work provides a lingering realisation that what is happening is almost like a dream, allowing the unpredictability of the film to sink further into the viewer’s mind.
Nothing Important is a true gem of the horror genre and like Jackson’s other work leaves the viewer with a horrible sense that what they have seen is perhaps only part of the story and that the truth is haunting the corner of our mind, ready to crystallise at any moment. Through a combination of excellent directing, acting and writing Nothing Important stands out as one of the most frightening films of the past year and one that will stay with you long after it ends.
If you want more information on the film, visit its website here.