Meggie Maddock is Novella McClure, an aspiring actress whose aspirations have outstripped her accomplishments to the extent that she hasn’t had a job in three years. Settling into a rotating trap of failed auditions, late rent payments and alcoholic evenings out with her hairdresser friend Candice (Francis), Novella’s situation changes irrevocably when matters come to a head, causing her anxiety to spiral in a new, quite horrific direction.
Weber’s film is far more sensitive, amusing and incisive than the promotional materials might suggest, which is not to say that when we cut to the chase, the grisly stuff isn’t uncommonly grim. Novella’s angst manifests itself as a particularly severe blend of masochistic cannibalism, and Weber introduces this concept with enough subtlety and gives it enough screen time to evolve, that we already identify with Novella as her progressive self-harming begins. It’s to the credit of both actor and filmmaker that the character’s journey is so involving and so sympathetically presented, and it is perhaps the film’s biggest achievement that the scenes in which Novella gnaws at her own flesh aren’t considerably more alienating.
The reason for this might be the slightly dreamlike quality of the production, which allows Weber to create an already heightened sense of reality among the small cast of characters. As the film progresses, he introduces a number of escape routes for Novella – such as her relationship with Dr Simon (Make) – in every instance stifling her options, often in ironic and self-defeating ways, before they get a real chance to develop. The resolution is as shocking as it is inevitable.
Eat is not a film that will appeal to all tastes, however, and not simply for the obvious reason. Some of the characterisation leans a little too heavily towards caricature, and often the reactions to and consequences of events are left rather too open to interpretation for those who like their i’s crossed or their t’s dotted. There are on the other hand some lovely, low-key touches, such as the foreshadowing with landlady Eesha’s dog – and some less lovely (but blackly funny) moments, such as the canine’s post-credits appearance. Weber has also edited and scored the film, giving it a consistency of vision rare even among auteur filmmakers, and considering the restrictive budget he was working with, has produced what amounts to a minor masterpiece.
Compelling but niche.
Special Features: Trailer
EAT / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JIMMY WEBER / STARRING: MEGGIE MADDOCK, ALI FRANCIS, JEREMY MAKE, MARU GARCIA, DAKOTA PIKE / RELEASE DATE: JULY 27TH