Emily Beecham stars as the eponymous Daphne in this refreshing snap shot of urban life in an ever changing social media driven society, addressing dating, sex, marriage and our seeming inability to properly connect.
What Peter Mackie Burns has created here with Daphne is a relationship drama light on comedy, heavy on cynicism and anchored by an understated performance. Grounded in London amongst the hustle and bustle of city life it explores loneliness, living and loving through relationships. Blinkered, oblivious, ignorance and agenda driven this vision is no day at the beach for anyone involved.
Naturalistic and honest in its depiction of metro coupling, Daphne is brought to life by Emily Beecham’s award winning performance, giving us a layered interpretation both isolating and pedantic with flashes of vulnerability, which earned her best actress at Edinburgh last year. Elsewhere Geraldine James and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as mother and boss respectively, give admirable support to her engaging portrayal without scene stealing or grandstanding.
This snap shot of urban life in an ever changing social media driven society addresses dating, sex, marriage and our inability to connect. Burns and writer Nico Mensinga have given us the antithesis of romantic life in London, by taking that shine off the turd and revelling in its darker elements. In their interpretation people have casually disinterested sexual encounters, indulge in thoughtless actions and make questionable choices. Disruptions are short, sharp, shocking and burden these people with emotional scars. Work is sweaty, dirty, unpredictable and intrinsically linked to social events, making Daphne feel closer to reality than most films get with relationships.
Dating exchanges are awkward uncomfortable affairs and happen unexpectedly causing embarrassment or momentarily silences. Love is neither a cure all nor theological lesson to be learnt, instead painted as just another part of life up for negotiation. Moments of tenderness are punctuated by disregard, miscommunication and fractured silences. Salvation for Daphne is all but ignored as we watch her downward spiral into isolation, using caustic humour and alcohol as defence mechanism and emotional crutch simultaneously.
Burns behind the camera proves himself an able helmsman while director of photography Adam Scath makes everything suitably dour. Where Daphne has issues however is primarily around the mid-way point where everything seems to slow down. What starts out as bleakly funny and original somehow loses its way as too many threads are either left dangling or under developed. For that reason attention spans tend to drift and interest wanes towards the finale. However these performances are more than enough to recommend a film with much to say on matters of the heart. Both refreshingly unrelenting on relationships and brazenly upfront in its depiction of urban living, Daphne is best suited to those who like their rom-coms with the gloss taken off.