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While oddly captivating at first, Norfolk spends too much time on self-indulgent cinematography to develop compelling characters or an interesting story.
Directed by Martin Radich, Norfolk stars Denis Menochet as a tough-love father who lives with his son (Barry Keoghan) in the pastoral, brooding landscape of Norfolk in the East of England. The bond between father and son is put to the test when the boy befriends a girl (Goda Letkauskaite). That’s loosely what the plot of the movie is, in the sense that it’s difficult to go into any more specifics without making the whole thing sound very confusing.
Not that Norfolk is a hard movie to follow, as much as it is a movie that’s hard to get invested in. There’s a lot to like about it – the cinematography is engaging and evokes an appropriately brooding tone and the performances are good across the board – but the movie forgets to include most important aspect of any story or piece of media: a reason to care about it.
The characters are complex, but there’s no incentive to get to know them better. At first, the sense of mystery works as an effective hook – the movie’s best scene is one of its very first, as father and son have breakfast. Every movement, every gesture is deliberate and meaningful. As the movies goes on, however, that interest is gradually diminished until it completely evaporates.
Norfolk‘s glacial pace becomes an exercise in frustration and what made the cinematography feel interesting early on starts to feel more and more like self-indulgence and pretentiousness. A scene of the father caught in some strange, almost ritualistic trance goes on for what feels like forever and the only one captivated by it was the movie itself.
If there is some deeper meaning to be found here, its walled off and the movie doesn’t encourage you to try and find it. Norfolk is tedious and a chore to watch, even at only 90 minutes. The music, a collaboration with Brooklyn-based composer JG Thirlwell is quite excellent, but it’s not enough to spark any interest in what’s happening on the screen.
Norfolk is set for a September 21 release in cinemas in the UK.