Hard Candy

Starring Patrick Wilson, Ellen Page, and Sandra Oh. Directed by David Slade.
Running Time: 103 minutes.
Rated: Rated MA 15+.
This is a grim two-hander that shows the two going through gruelling experiences - and the demands made on the audience are extremely gruelling as well.

The prologue to the film is a conversation in an on-line chat-room, a certain amount of flirting with an agreement for the two to meet. He is a 32 year old professional photographer. She is an extraordinarily precocious 14 year old who proceeds to lead him on - and he is easily led. Then all hell - for him - breaks loose.

The dynamics for the meetings are based on her desire for vengeance for the death of a friend who has been victim of predators for under age girls. He is her target. For most of the rest of the film, we witness her subjecting him to psychological torture with well-articulated taunts to his conscience and personality. She also subjects him to a home castration operation, urging him ultimately to hang himself.

He tries to bluff his way at first, then, as he is bound and prepared for the cutting, he breaks down, remembering a traumatic story from his childhood, pleading and weeping. For some moments, the roles are reversed but, by and large, she is in control.

Whether one wants to share this experience, very well acted and conscience-jolting concerning the behaviour of offender as well as avenger, seems unlikely for most audiences. It is all the more intense because it is quite claustrophobic as action is mainly confined to his home, the director's technique tends to stay with close-ups of faces and the colour design is stark and cold.

Patrick Wilson, better known as a musical theatre star on Broadway (and Raoul in the film of The Phantom), makes the perpetrator credible, a smooth operator who has been found out. Ellen Page is extraordinary as the girl, generally supremely assured and confident in her role as judge and executioner, intelligent, articulate and relentless.

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and an associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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