The psychological thriller dynamic of a famous celebrity menaced by an obsessive fan is nothing new, but what makes A Patch of Fog stand out is its study of the dynamic between its two leads. The story constantly blurs the lines between the relative moralities of the two men, so much so that your sympathies regularly shift between them.
Being the one who is encroached upon, Sandy begins as the most sympathetic of the pair. His life is straightforward from having published one bestseller twenty years previously and coasting off its success ever since its popularity landing him a job lecturing in creative writing and as co-host of a review TV show. So devoid of strife is his existence that the thrill of the possibility of being caught while shoplifting is the only thing that gives him any excitement. However, his dismissive arrogance keeps you from fully sympathising with his plight, and he has a disregard for the thoughts and feelings of others as though their presence is an inconvenience he can’t be bothered with.
Meanwhile, for all his threats and blackmailing, Robert’s actions are the result of him being desperately lonely; his inability to make friends isolating him from everyone around him. All he wants is companionship from someone who’ll acknowledge his existence, even if they have to be coerced into spending time with him. Even though he becomes increasingly obsessive and his manipulations continue to escalate, his twisted perceptions make him genuinely believe he isn’t doing anything wrong, and can’t understand why Sandy remains so hostile to his attempts to befriend him. It becomes apparent that in his own way Sandy is just as alone as Robert is. Despite being rich, successful and having a glamorous girlfriend he’s almost getting serious with, he feels his life is one of hollow emptiness and is too self-absorbed to appreciate his good fortune. However, as much as he might resent his success, neither is he especially keen to give up its trappings.
As a battle of wills between the two men escalates, so does the maintained air of menace as threats both tacit and spoken are made on either side, all the while the danger of events turning tragic continues to loom. The Belfast setting of the film is a city portrayed almost as sinister as the story set against it, with shadows cast heavy by the burning amber of streetlights, while ominous shrouds of mist envelop the cobbled streets at suitably dramatic intervals, almost as though summoned from Sandy’s titular novel.
An almost cartoonish moment at the climax threatens to undo the film’s meticulous structure, but when placed against the subdued intensity of the rest of the film it’s a minor gripe. Overall, A Patch of Fog is a compelling tale of constant unease and escalating tension that keeps you gripped throughout.
A PATCH OF FOG / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MICHAEL LENNOX / SCREENPLAY: JOHN CAIRNS, MICHAEL MCCARTNEY / STARRING: CONLETH HILL, STEPHEN GRAHAM, LARA PULVER, ARSHER ALI, IAN MCELHINNEY / RELEASE DATE: JULY 8TH (CINEMA), JULY 11TH (VOD)
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10