An ambitious look at grief that never quite decides where it wants to go.
From its opening shot of a son’s corpse Bitter And Twisted
sets out to pull you into a dimly lit and depressing existence. By no
means a film that you will want to watch to make you feel good, it is
one that presents some interesting themes on grief but struggles to pull
everything together for a coherent film.
When their eldest son dies the Lombard family are sent into the
depths of sorrow. Three years later the wounds have not healed and each
member is struggling to find their way through life. Mother Penelope (Hazlehurst) thinks she is pregnant, only to discover that she is going through the menopause. Father Jordan (Rodgers)
has resorted to eating as form of comfort and as a result if morbidly
obese, not to mention that he is struggling in his job. All the while
their surviving son Ben (Weekes) harbours affections for the girl next door, Indigo (Walsman) with problems of her own, who is his brother’s ex-girlfriend.
It reads as very heavy handed which would be fine if there was some
light at the end of the tunnel. Bitter And Twisted’s biggest flaw is it
draws you into the family’s negative state and then never allows you any
form of hope. By the time the credits roll, you wonder if the intent was simply to make you as sad as the characters in the story.
First time writer/director Weekes conjures some clever imagery, the
best ones being the way in which Liam, the dead son, seeps into the
family’s consciousness throughout the film. Weekes certainly has the
potential to go onto bigger things, but often his style feels too flat
for this genre. Combine this with an obvious low budget and Bitter And
Twisted feels like a melodramatic soap opera rather than an evocative
The script has grand ideas but often lacks the focus to bring them
altogether. One way this is made paramount is in the character of the
young daughter Lisa (A’Hern), who is never given any real plot
line. She is part of the family and ever present but we never find out
how she copes with the loss, or if it has registered with her at all.
The film is held together by some solid performances. Rodgers
as the overweight father paints a sympathetic character of a man who is
his own worst enemy. As he dwarfs his wife in their bed, slowly munching
on a bowl of cereal, it is hard not to see the deer in the headlights
mentality. He knows that to sort himself out he must stop eating but it
is his only form of comfort. Weekes as Ben is always frustrating. The
character is too weak to find anything to connect to. Struggling with
his sexuality he comes across as someone who needs a good shake to wake
him from his lethargic state. Walsman brings some much needed anger and
anguish to the film in the shape of Indigo. Her outbursts of rage are
the most obvious forms of dealing with her situation but she does it
with enough conviction that you are drawn to her. It is Hazlehurst as
the mother, who does the most with her part. Penelope is frustrated by
her lot in life, her husband seems disinterested in her and her need to
be wanted drives her to some heartfelt moments of clarity. The film is
always at its best when she is involved.
Some good performances and poignant moments do not do enough to lift
Bitter And Twisted out of the slump it settles in. There is never a
moment of relief for the viewer and so the end leaves you angry at the
lack of resolution. It will not send you into a state of despair but it might leave you a little Bitter And Twisted at its overall emptiness.