True Calling review – a government minister goes awol on long night of the soul

A politician’s long night of the soul becomes a confusing debate on the climate crisis in Erik Knudsen’s tiny-budget drama

This tiny-budget British drama, written and directed by Erik Knudsen, begins intriguingly as the government’s energy minister goes awol a few days before the election. An energy crisis is brewing; his phone is ringing off the hook. But he switches off the lights at his detached house in Wimbledon, gets in the car and drives. From his wealth-and-privilege accent and fashion choice of blue jeans and leather lace-ups, I assumed he was a Tory – but, in fact, he’s a member of the fictional left-leaning Independent party.

This is Josh Joseph, AKA JJ (played by David Smith) and the film is his long night – and day – of the soul. There are a couple of interesting moments as he drives north listening to voicemails, and I enjoyed the camera right up against his face, registering his micro-expressions, the frustration and anxiety as he vents at an aide at the madness of a live debate with his opposite number in the shadow cabinet. (The government’s policy to massively increase wind power is a dead-cert vote loser.)

The film completely unravels when JJ arrives at his destination, the postcard-pretty northern town where he grew up. He’s here to confess undying love to a woman (Eliza Marsland) he knew as a teenager, when he was the lead singer in a Christian rock band. The pair walk in the woods talking earnestly with zero believability. He says he’s not sure if he buys the scientists on global warming after all. I was baffled by the politics: is the film anti-climate change, or is the doubt a symptom of JJ’s breakdown? It ends with him by the river having an audience with an anti-wind turbine activist (Ben Hynes). But here there’s no confusing the meaning of JJ being dunked underwater by this beardy fella who speaks in fishing metaphors.

I have admit to watching a lot of the movie imagining a The Thick of It version, with Malcom Tucker’s running commentary of a wet minister off the leash and the hairdryer bollocking coming his way.

• True Calling is released on 24 September in cinemas.


Cath Clarke

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Long Day's Journey Into Night review – an exhilarating slo-mo hallucination
Mystery, passion and fear permeate the obsessive reverie of a man searching for his lost love, which takes flight in an audacious 3D dream-fantasy sequence

Peter Bradshaw

20, Dec, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
Fear Eats the Soul review – love versus racism in Fassbinder's exquisite tale
Cleaner Emmi loves immigrant Ali, 20 years her junior – to the chagrin of 1970s Munich – in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s heart-rending and extremely prescient drama

Peter Bradshaw

30, Mar, 2017 @5:00 PM

Article image
Been So Long review – Michaela Coel tremendous in movie musical
Coel and Arinzé Kene are captivating as an unlikely couple who meet on a night out in Camden in this beguiling love story

Peter Bradshaw

14, Oct, 2018 @10:03 AM

Article image
Long Shot review – Seth Rogen gets Charlize Theron's vote
Laughs ensue when a presidential hopeful is reunited with the teenager – now a speechwriter – whom she once babysat

Mike McCahill

03, May, 2019 @7:00 AM

Article image
On Body and Soul review – bizarre and brutal tale of lovers in the slaughterhouse
In this strange, unsettling romance, a Hungarian abattoir provides the backdrop for an affair between two workers that exists only when they sleep

Peter Bradshaw

21, Sep, 2017 @2:30 PM

Article image
On a Magical Night review – peppy portrait of a crumbling marriage
When a serial adulterer decamps to a hotel opposite her marital home, she is visited by a string of lovers and others from the past

Phil Hoad

17, Jun, 2020 @3:00 PM

Article image
A Ghost Story review – Casey Affleck goes undercover in a strange and haunting tale
Affleck plays a sheet-wearing spirit trying to connect with Rooney Mara’s widow in David Lowery’s audacious and affecting meditation on love, loss and letting go

Peter Bradshaw

10, Aug, 2017 @2:30 PM

Article image
Our Souls at Night review – Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in a moving autumn romance
This adaptation of Kent Haruf’s novel is a graceful, easygoing, sincere film about a couple finding solace in each other and respite from their Edward Hopper lives

Xan Brooks

01, Sep, 2017 @2:33 PM

Article image
Long Day’s Journey Into Night review – some kind of sorcery at work
This staggeringly ambitious love story will dazzle and baffle long after the credits have rolled

Wendy Ide

28, Dec, 2019 @3:00 PM

Article image
Last Night – review

Keira Knightley stars in a sexy if flimsy drama set over two nights in America, writes Philip French

Philip French

04, Jun, 2011 @11:05 PM