The War Zone

The subject matter of The War Zone is probably enough to turn away most mainstream moviegoers. This is a shame, since the movie is a moving and horrifying experience to sit through. The War Zone deals with arguably the worst type of abuse committed within the family, incest. The movie, adapted by author Alexander Stuart from his own 1989 book, puts the your emotions in a vise, and proceeds to tighten it until you feel like running out of the theater screaming.

Fifteen year old Tom (Freddie Cunliffe) is at the center of the story. He is a quiet boy, and could be considered a loser. His family is new to Dover, having recently moved from London. The difference is extreme. They seem to live completely alone, far from any other people. Tom is not enjoying his new life. He seldom speaks, and just seems to sulk around the house. Newcomer Cunliffe excels at conveying emotion without really doing anything. His character glares his way through the movie, holding all of his emotions inside. Tom lives with his father (Ray Winstone, The Mammy, Nil By Mouth), pregnant mother (Tilda Swinton, Orlando, The Beach), and older sister Jessie (Lara Belmont, another newcomer). Their mother ends up giving birth in a tumultuous car crash, foreshadowing the turbulent future of their family unit. Alice, Tom's new baby sister, causes some excitement in his otherwise boring life, but there still is not much to do. One day, Tom makes a horrifying discovery, which propels the movie forward in a sickening direction.

The War Zone is the powerful directorial debut of actor Tim Roth (Rob Roy, Pulp Fiction). Hopefully, Roth will, next time, pick a subject more palatable. The first third of the movie is notable for its blandness and complete sense of the ordinary, which is shattered with Tom's discovery. Winstone and Belmont are extremely talented, and it is important to repeat constantly that they are only actors, they are not really related. The only improvement could have been subtitles; although the actors speak in English, they seem to mumble a lot, making many of their lines incoherent (as in Persuasion a couple years ago). Thankfully, the issue of incest is not dealt with lightly. This is not a movie you can expect from a national network on a Sunday night, but a serious exploration of an even more serious subject. If you think you have the stomach to sit through The War Zone, it will be an experience you will not soon forget.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 38 minutes, Not Rated, but not for children; very adult themes and situations, language, nudity, sexual situations dealing with incest.

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