Sinister side of staycation in Make Up
Film set in out-of-season Cornish caravan park is part psychological horror, part coming of age story
30 July, 2020 — By Dan Carrier
Molly Windsor as Ruth in Make Up
Directed by Claire Oakley
A BRINY tale of internal sexual anguish, director Claire Oakley uses an end-of-season, end-of-the-world, Cornish caravan park to create a sense of forlorn confusion and personal dissatisfaction to poignant effect.
Ruth (Molly Windsor), travels south to meet boyfriend Tom (Joseph Quinn) to see out a winter’s work on site – but the idea of shacking up for darker months in a place populated by the ghosts of lost dreams soon curdles.
She suspects Tom of having an affair with a mystery woman – and becomes entranced with a vision of a scarlet-finger-nailed redhead she catches glimpses of but can never quite find.
Meanwhile, she is befriended by co-worker Jade (Stefanie Martini) and while imagining she may be a rival for Tom’s affections, she begins to question her sexuality, confused by her attraction to someone at first she feels deeply jealous of.
What transpires is part psychological horror, part coming of age story that cleverly creates the confusion of a teenager trying to find out what she wants, not what pleases others.
Novelist Magnus Mills used the out of season British holiday camp as the setting for his extraordinary tale, All Quiet On The Orient Express – and Oakley has done something similar here, igniting such a deep feeling of discontent that this year’s staycationers will relate to when unwrapping soggy sandwiches while squinting out at a wind- and rain-ripped grey-green sea.
When Jade asks Ruth where she would rather be – and then answers her own question by saying Madeira, not because she has ever been there, but simply due to the fact it isn’t where she is now, it is a significant moment in a plot that likes to toss the viewer a red herring.
With echoes of Andrea Arnold and early Lynne Ramsay films, Ruth’s contemporary nihilism is portrayed by subtle touches – the slurping of sugary milk from the breakfast bowls of cheap cereal Ruth lives on, the fumigated caravans, the grim furnishings and the old lady living opposite whose appearance suggests that life doesn’t offer much to look forward to.
Though at times disjointed, swinging off down dark and fairly incomprehensible plot alleys, which means Oakley occasionally labours the point, it adds up to an overall nightmarish landscape.