Surprisingly for a modern film The Party is only 71 minutes long and while it definitely counts as a feature film, it’s always got an underlying feeling you’d want to watch this on stage. Written and directed by Sally Potter, who’s known for her innovative and original approach to film-making of all kinds, she’s an actor’s director and picks out some of the finest here to tell the dramatic, darkly comic tale of Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas), who’s hosting a party to celebrate a new promotion but what starts out positive, is about to change all the guests lives forever.
This 7-character narrative is shot in black and white and set in Janet’s house, a specially constructed set made just for the film. Starring Scott Thomas as the lead, we also meet her husband Bill (Timothy Spall), their friends April (Patricia Clarkson) and her partner Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), plus couple Martha (Cherry Jones) and Jinny (Emily Mortimer) and also Tom, played by Cillian Murphy along the way.
Janet’s big promotion is in the government, and you’ll learn the specifics over the run-time, and while others do support her, there are concealed stories lurking beneath the surface. It seems unfair to discuss those with an excess of depth because if I give away the plot, you’ll lose the progression of intrigue and discovery. What I will talk about is the actors and while this is obviously an ensemble piece, with everyone having their little moment, there are stand-out performances.
Primarily it’s Patricia Clarkson as April and her ‘life coach’ other half Gottfried (Ganz) who offer us a wonderful kink of dysfunctional that filters across every relationship in The Party. While April is brutally honest throughout, but you’ll understand and appreciate her direct nature, it’s because it steadies the narrative and also makes each characters react, in countless confrontational ways. Scott Thomas and Spall are as charismatic as always, Spall once again find a particular way to embed in all varieties of characters. While Jones and Mortimer are honest in the questions they ask of their own relationship, it’s Murphy’s Tom who is the most mysterious because you don’t know his involvement or motive for the way he’s behaving.
Whilst the characters are dysfunctional, The Party is also wonderfully authentic and eventually each will ‘air their dirty laundry’ in front of each other but, again, I can’t get specifics and apologise for the vague insight but it’s difficult to say too much without giving all the fun away. What I will say is this, if you like a dialogue-heavy feature that’s sharp, snappy, political and something you want to fully immerse with as events take a downward, entertaining, spiral then you’ll find it all here in The Party.