Helen Munroe as psychologist Rebecca Dayton
in How These Things Start. If you don't think
it looks like a scary scene, that's because
you haven't seen the movie yet...
How These Things Start is the third film by British independent maverick director Chloe Appleton. Her 2009 debut Just Kidding famously, or perhaps infamously, got her into trouble with everyone from film classification boards to the Canadian police, with its dark mix of paedophilia and hypnotism.
Appleton’s 2014 follow-up was the mellow and slow-paced Every October’s the Same, a love story which propelled young Clay Thornburn to fame. How These Things Start seems Woody Allen-ish to begin with, as female psychoanalyst Rebecca Dayton (played by Helen Munroe, the young daughter in the TV series Better than Ever all those years ago) falls in love with her attractive male patient only to find that he is the son she never knew she had.
Oedipus Schmoedipus, you might think. But the use of flashback and ambiguous recordings of the couple together leave you utterly uncertain of what has actually happened. Imagine mixing Last Year at Marienbad with Fatal Attraction and you are getting warm.
Screenwriter Alex Teller has a way with short, incisive scenes. Dayton meets patient Lucas Parker (played by the revelation Danny Carter, who I hadn’t even heard of before this movie).
DAYTON: Sit down, Lucas.
PARKER: Standing is fine.
DAYTON: So you’ll stand for the whole session. Good. Would you mind putting the chair on one side if you’re not going to use it?
PARKER: You fucking do it.
DAYTON: No. You fucking do it.
It seems crass, but in terms of establishing the power relationship between the two it is an awesome scene.
Veteran Polish actor Marek Nowak makes an appearance as Dayton’s fellow psychiatrist, and simply adds more twists to the tale as his own past is revealed. Jayne Trenemann, a young lady at the start of her career, should also have many film roles ahead of her. She plays Dayton’s daughter Louise, a girl who manages to make a joke out of her Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The supporting cast are sound but yet they step back a little as the psychodrama unfolds. It is a very well-paced movie
This makes me look forward to Appleton’s next movie. She is as hip as she is scary. The incidental music is edgy and sinister, composed by Lana Greaves from the band Sun Goes Down.
Low budget but all the better for it, How These Things Start is well worth your time. It is not easy to write psychologically disturbing cinema which also raises the occasional smile. The scene in which Parker produces a small pair of sewing-scissors which Dayton knows belong to her own mother is one of the most terrifying you will ever see.
It’s not a feelgood movie, sure, but it’s not really a feelbad movie. More a feelweird film. See it, but take a friend. Not your analyst.