revisiting The War Zone (1999)

As part of my British film rewatching ‘home festival’ I unwrapped the DVD that I bought several years ago of The War Zone, directed by Tim Roth and based on the novel by Alexander Stuart . Its a film that I have seen only once (well now twice) having first watched the film on VHS in 1999 when I was a video store clerk. I had vague memories of the film and its plot but to be honest I tried to blot most of it out since the first viewing.  So why rewatch it, if I tried to blot the film out? Well time changes the way we see films and perhaps the film wasnt as grim as I remember it being? Well guess what. the film is just as grim as I remembered it , but there were certain plot details that I had blotted out so when they appeared on screen< i was once again shocked by its grimmness.

The War Zone centres on a family, Mum (played by Tilda Swinton), Dad (played by Ray Winstone), Lucy (played by Lara Belmont) and Tom played by Freddie Cunliffe. (Later on in the film a baby arrives, but ive no idea who played her)  The family live by the coast, having moves away from London and now live in what I can only describe as one of the remotest places Ive seen in a film for a while, its certainly not where id like to go for a family holiday thats for sure. and from the mood the location is in, yes that matches the mood of this film. Lots of crashing waves and greyness.

But The War Zone isnt a terrible film, Its well shot, its very well acted, and everything about the films production team is top notch. Ray Winstone as always is on top form as it Tilda Swinton. But the films main stars are Lara Belmont, and Freddie Cunliffe as the two teenagers who slow learn that the other knows more about this family then they should. Lara is exceptional in this, her first on screen role (but certainly not her last) as Jessie who is living the life of a teenager that no teenager should life. 

Would I recommend The War Zone, well that’s the tricky question. To the majority of people I know I certainly wouldn’t recommend it, but not because its a badly made film (because its not a badly made film) but because its subject matter isn’t not the sort of thing that a bucker of popcorn is needed to accompany. Its perhaps one of the grimmest films that Ive seen and whilst I certainly don’t doubt that the storyline of this film happens in the world, and we know it does. When it comes to films, The War Zone isn’t the sort of film  you say ‘oh you’ve not seen this, oh you should watch it, its really good’ or you may find you’ll lose the majority of your friends. So to those who have seen the film. All my comments about the film will make perfect sense.  To those who haven’t seen the film. Beware! What youll encounter is one of the saddest and grimmest films youll have seen for…. a long time, it not of all time.

I would love to have sat in on the meetings with the cast where they are given a script, and to see how those conversations went. There are interviews on the DVD that I watched after the film and they do give more insight into the film and what was intended for the film and the viewer, and they do make sense.

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