Break My Fall Redux review – sex, drugs and indie rock are the backdrop to a doomed lesbian relationship | Film

The writer-director Kanchi Wichmann’s keen-eyed portrait of a doomed lesbian couple stagnating amid the sex, drugs and indie rock of early 21st century east London felt strikingly fresh when it was released 12 years ago. Now, it has acquired the pleasing whiff of a period piece. Most of the characters carry mobile phones, but no one spends their time staring at them, and the soundtrack features the itchy pop squiggles of Micachu and the Shapes several years before frontperson Mica Levi emerged as cinema’s most gifted new composer on Under the Skin, Jackie and Monos.

Subtly recut to bring the central relationship further into the foreground, the new version looks even more distinctive, not to say unflinching. Musicians Liza (Kat Redstone) and Sally (Sophie Anderson) live in a Hackney flat festooned with fairy lights and pop-culture knick-knacks, and frequented by achingly cool friends, including self-described rent-boy Vinny (Kai Brandon Ly) and mohawk-sporting bartender Jamie (Collin Clay Chace); but the lovers are stuck in a tailspin of abuse and codependency that no amount of hipster affectations can disguise.

Orbiting around them is a clutch of finely drawn minor characters, including a drugs counsellor who snorts a few lines after a stressful week, and a swaggering, sharp-suited city type jilted by her married female lover (“That’s what the B in LGBT stands for”). Everyone is chasing the dubious solace of normality, whatever that might be. Staring across the rooftops in the wee small hours, Jamie pines for “all the sweet, normal things” and wistfully ponders “a whole other world out there of people who go to bed at night and get up in the morning”. Liza asks Sally: “Why can’t we just do something normal for once?”

Like earlier London-based slices-of-life such as Bronco Bullfrog and The Low Down, Break My Fall floats in that nebulous space where its young dreamers haven’t yet discovered who they are, their alienation only heightened by the city around them. There is also a hint of mumblecore here, though Wichmann’s film is a pricklier proposition, and a more lyrical one, thanks to the cinematographer Dawid Pietkiewicz’s use of closeups and long-lens shots.

The understated ending, set at dawn in a petrol station where the light has died tellingly in the first letter of the “Shell” sign, tips its hat to Five Easy Pieces. So, too, does an earlier showdown with a cafe owner who insists on charging for an extra fork. “You’ve got a cutlery disorder!” fumes Liza, magnificently.

Break My Fall Redux is released on 18 September on digital platforms.


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