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THE WAR ZONE

UK, 1998 (MIFF 1999, International Panorama)

Director: Tim Roth

Tim Roth's powerhouse drama about a working-class family torn apart by incest and parental abuse was one of the highlights of this year's Sundance Film Festival. Informed by the gritty urban tragedies of Ken Loach, Roth's first film features Ray Winstone {Quadrophenia, Nil By Mouth, Face [MIFF 1998]) as a terrifying, explo­sive patriarch. He has relocated his family from London to the far more tranquil Devon. Teenage siblings Tom and Jessie find their new surroundings lame and dull, that is until Tom begins to notice incidents of inappro­priate affection that his father begins to show toward Jessie. Tilda Swinton (Orlando [MIFF 1993]. Love is the Devil [MIFF 1998]) shines as their pregnant mother, so preoccupied with her baby that she fails to address ihe crisis that is tearing her family apart.

Restrained and disciplined, given the delicate sub­ject matter, Roth understands the fine line between kitchen-sink realism and the more subtle dictates of Ihe cinema screen. Much of the power of the film stems from attention to detail and the cumulative effect of each scene. The result is a superior, harrowing family drama worthy of Eugene O'Neill or Tennessee Williams.

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