thu 23/05/2024

DVD: Daphne | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Daphne

DVD: Daphne

British indie finds laughs and heart in the existential dread of London life

Emily Beecham shines as the difficult but likeable DaphneAgatha A. Nitecka

Daphne, the independent feature debut from director Peter Mackie Burns, was released to little fanfare last year, a fact somewhat emphasised by the other films advertised on its DVD release – Moonlight and Lady Macbeth – more lauded releases from distributor Altitude Films. Even the special features fail to commemorate anything but the trailer.

But don’t be fooled; Daphne is a hidden gem of British humanist filmmaking.

Daphne is a 31-year-old with no direction and very little regard for her wellbeing. Her intelligence and wit give her a magnetism, but it’s soon clear that she’s a useless friend and a nightmare employee. She sabotages relationships on a whim, avoids her family, and spends evenings either drinking alone or hooking up with strangers. Many assume she’s younger than she is, because most people wise-up by their thirties.

It’s a complicated but accurate picture of someone that’s become numb to their own life

She coasts along, unhappy but with no incentive to change. After another meaningless and unsatisfying one-night stand, she becomes witness to a stabbing in the local newsagent. Traumatised and confused by the event, Daphne doubles down on her destructive tendencies. She doesn’t tell anyone about the crime, instead becoming more erratic and lashing out at anyone showing concern or interest.

It sounds pretty downbeat, but while it’s not a film that takes its topics lightly, it tackles them with charm and heart. It’s been somewhat erroneously called a rom-com, but Daphne is more about learning to love and value yourself. A closer comparison would be Lena Dunham’s Girls, but leaning heavier on the pathos than comedy. She doesn’t find the right person, but she might start letting them in when she does.

It’s not the easy payoff most films would rely on, which is why Daphne relies so heavily on the titular star Emily Beecham. She is at once hilarious and heartbreaking – eminently watchable, even when cringing through fingers. She plays Daphne as a faux-narcissist, detached from her own relationships and reading choice philosophers to convince herself nothing matters. On paper, she sounds off-putting, but Beecham finds honesty and vulnerability in her actions, meaning we never stop rooting for her.Emily Beecham in DaphneIt’s a complicated but accurate picture of someone that’s become numb to their own life. The indulgences of drink, drugs and sex are now habit – former retreats which are neither as fun nor satisfying as they once were. Daphne still has a moral compass, she just doesn’t figure herself into it: she’ll take food from work to feed the homeless, then buy herself a bucket of fried chicken after being booted from a club.

It’s a very streamlined film. Every scene focuses on Daphne’s personal journey, no superfluous characters or secondary plots. Adam Scarth's cinematography is simple and unintrusive, but finds the beautiful odd shapes and angles of London when called upon.

It’s a confident debut from Mackie Burns, trusting in Beecham to wring the required tension from a look here and a phrase there. Some might find the film slow or lacking plot, others will find it far more affecting and relevant than they were expecting. Like the character herself, Daphne rewards those who spot she’s worth hanging around for.


She is at once hilarious and heartbreaking - eminently watchable, even when cringing through fingers


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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