Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
EXTREME cinema, by its very nature, has to walk a very fine line
between whats acceptable and what feels voyeuristic or simply
there for shock value. The Principles of Lust falls into both
of the latter categories and ends up a thoroughly nasty affair.
Written and directed by Penny Woolcock, the film sets its stall
out as an unflinching depiction of sexual relationships, played
out against the backdrop of life in Yorkshire, yet while certainly
hard-hitting and frank in its portrayal of both, the overall effect
is both sordid and smothering.
Alec Newman stars as unemployed aspiring writer, Paul, who is
offered an escape from his boring existence by two new friendships
- one of which offers safety and commitment, and the other which
constantly threatens to tip him over the edge.
He first meets obnoxious thrill-seeker, Billy (Marc Warren),
following a car crash, and finds himself increasingly drawn towards
the photographers world of sexual excess and illegal bare-knuckle
brawling, while also struggling to build a relationship with beautiful
single mother, Juliette (Sienna Guillory), who offers him the
chance to further his writing, if he will stay at home and look
after her son.
The ensuing lifestyle dilemma starts strongly enough, but quickly
descends into murky territory, while failing to provide any characters
that audiences can genuinely root for.
Paul, for instance, is very much the author of his own despair
and feels singularly unsympathetic throughout, despite a decent
performance from Newman, while we have seen Warren play the unnerving
psychopath before - even though his portrayal of Billy is especially
Woolcock insists on infusing her film with the same kind of grim
up North mentality that besets so many British films, dragging
the viewer down with its dreary tone, and she also opts for shock
tactics, rather than making the viewer do any real work in terms
of the nature of relationships. In fact, the answers to the questions
she poses seem obvious from the beginning.
Worse still, however, is her depiction of the world in which
Billy inhabits, which all-too frequently veers into abhorrent
An orgy, late on, feels voyeuristic and borderline pornographic,
but pales into insignificance by comparison with her depiction
of the world of bare-knuckle brawlers - particularly when she
opts to show, in close-up, a fight between two 11-year-olds, backed
by their fathers, in which one child is shown to visibly chew
on the cheek of the other, before spitting it out.
There is no justification for showing such scenes, and no intention
other than to shock, and the film fails to recover from it, ending
up as a reprehensible work from an otherwise promising director.