titled Straw Man, A Reckoning
is a small budget British production directed by A.D. Barker,
and starring Leslie Simpson. Currently caught up in a hellish
legal fight, it's a film that few so far can see - a shame, as
it deserves as wide an audience as possible.
The film follows a lone man through his day to day life in an
abandoned housing estate during a bitterly cold British winter
and beyond. Whether the man is the sole survivor of an apocalypse
event or his solitary life is an indication of his psychological
isolation, or perhaps even madness, is never disclosed. Despite
us not knowing the explicit details of his circumstances, we are
given multiple clues to his character throughout the film, beginning
with the opening quote from Edgar Allan Poe, “All that
we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”
Simpson’s careful and studied portrayal of his character's
descent into the darkness of his own mind is incredibly powerful
and well played. Ranging from the black comedy of his interactions
with the straw students he 'teaches' as part of his apparent need
to hold on to normality, to his profound loneliness and total
isolation, as he longs for a “single sentence to break the
silence,” Simpson seems to have invested himself one hundred
per cent to the role both physically and mentally, and it shows.
It’s a wonderful, nuanced performance and he deserves credit
for making his character believable and touching as well as frightening
Something too, must be said, about Adam Krajczynski’s magnificent
photography which gives an ethereal beauty to the desolate winter
landscape and is an integral element in the film's overall emotional
A Reckoning asks many questions and whilst some
are answered, many are left open. It’s a very literary film
with multiple references to books and characters that, if one
is familiar with those works, add an extra dimension to the narrative
and provide further indication of the character's mental state.
Whilst in many other films, this kind of 'intellectual product
placement' can be over emphasised and clumsy, here it works perfectly,
and gives a genuine depth to the film.
A Reckoning is a film that asks each and every
one of us to question our habitual lives. It’s an existential
quest to discover the meaning in our own existence, beyond our
attachments to others and everything we hold dear. To strip away
everything and see what remains.