x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Incendiary

This is incontrovertibly Michelle Williams' film. A trophy-worthy display of guilt and anguish, and finally, courage and stoicism in the face of unimaginable hurt.

A performance to blow you away: Michelle Williams plays the nameless working class mother in <i>Incendiary</i>.
A performance to blow you away: Michelle Williams plays the nameless working class mother in Incendiary.


Adapted from Chris Cleave's unbearably prescient pulp fiction (a story sparked from a terrorist plot on London, it was published on the day of the 7/7 bombings), Incendiary follows one unnamed young mother (Michelle Williams), whose husband and four-year-old son are killed in a suicide bomb attack on a packed London football stadium. Writer-director Sharon Maguire's long-awaited follow-up to Bridget Jones's Diary is yet another London story - a very different kind of London story, mind - but one that is rapt in the spirit of the city it inhabits. Around it, Maguire fashions some stunning set-pieces: the blasted-out Emirates stadium; the "cemetery in the sky" victims' memorial that skews the familiar cityscape into something eerily unfamiliar. In these moments, it soars. In transposing other elements of its predecessor, however, the film stumbles, propelled along as it is by the mother's intermittent voiceover that narrates her grief-stricken letters to Osama bin Laden. This uneasy mix of high-octane thriller, romantic entanglements and melodrama is never fully reconciled: a real blow to the intended emotional impact. But this is incontrovertibly Michelle Williams' success. From the beautiful opening sequence on Camber Sands - the loveliest portrait of mother and son, with a loose visual allusion, in the red hooded jackets worn by both, to Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now and the mother's grief that will ensue - she gives a voice to the nameless working class mother, pitch-perfect tower-block vowels and all. And it is in the final scenes of the film, in which Williams essays a consummate portrayal of a mother's ultimate loss, that the film finally taps into its heartbroken, molten core. If I have awarded Incendiary one star too many, it is for Williams' trophy-worthy display of guilt and anguish, and finally, courage and stoicism in the face of unimaginable hurt.

afeshareki@thenational.ae