Shell – Torino 30

A slow paced family kitchen sink drama directed by Scott Graham and set in the Scottish highlands. Winner of the 30th Torino Film Festival.


During the recent years a new generation of British filmmakers has emerged. They have been already acclaimed in many film festivals and their films are mainly focused on social issues and problematic families. The newest member of this wave is Scott Graham, whose debut feature film has premiered in competition at Torino Film Festival. Shell has been based on his homonymous short film from 2007.

The story takes place in an isolated area at the Scottish highlands. Shell (Chloe Pirrie) is 17 years old and lives with her dad Pete (Joseph Mawle). They have a petrol station where Shell works all day. Pete is a serviceman and also does the entire extra work for both of them. Their secluded home is near a local forest. They only have two regular customers, Hugh (Michael Smiley) who’s a salesman and young Adam (Iain De Caestecker) who is working at a sawmill. One night a couple knocks on their door since they just hit a deer with their car. Deer is a symbol of freedom for Shell and after its death; she will change her ideas, her choices, and ultimately her life. The dead animal haunts her ever since.

Shell (1)

Shell is the center of interest, everyone is looking for her and she is their way out to express their emotions. She feels so special and different like a precious real shell found in a forest. Hugh has a crush on her and Adam wants her as his girlfriend. Shell is indifferent towards them since she has already some latent incest feelings for her own father. There’s no mistake that there is almost a complete lack of other female roles in the film. Shell’s mother went missing when she was 4 years old and no one could fill that gap ever since. That inevitably will create a strange love connection between her and her father.

Graham is following the footsteps of his fellow compatriot Lynne Ramsay. He builds a slow paced kitchen sink drama with the fewest actors possible. The dialogues are minimal, there is always a distance among the heroes, nobody can feel close to each other, and when that happens it is always for the worst. Instead of words he prefers a more realistic point of view and he is using nature’s sounds and highland’s wind. The director has mentioned Andrei Tarkovsky as his most important influence on film-making. Unfortunately this is only obvious on the spectacular cinematography by Yoliswa Gärtig. The story evolves slowly and doesn’t have many dramatic climaxes before the end. As a debut film this seems quite promising for the work that will come afterwards. Shell is a visually memorable film that would need a more precise and strict narrative in order to impress.

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