For a while now, I’ve been a great fan of Bertie Gilbert’s filmography. Ever since I saw his first short Stray Dog, I’ve been fascinated by his singular style, and his never less than compelling narratives. I’ve watched and loved all of his recent output, and always been excited for the next one. Grey Area is the most recent film he’s released, and honestly? It’s Gilbert’s best film yet.
First and foremost, the film is completely different to any film he’s made before. Yes, on the surface it may share some similarities with Gilbert’s most recent film Tick Where It Hurts (both because of its more naturalistic nature and the presence of Miles Hall), but really, it’s a different beast.
One night, two best friends named Dexter (Hall) and Charlie (Gilbert) meet up to shoot Charlie’s media project. He pitches it as a film without a plot, apparently because he doesn’t have “the money” for that kind of detail, but as becomes swiftly apparent, it’s most probably because Charlie isn’t as good as he really believes himself to be. Dexter has recently broken up with his girlfriend, and is decidedly cagey about discussing the details of the breakup (even flat-out refusing to say the person’s name), and has come to help out because he believes it’ll help him take his mind off recent events. It doesn’t.
The moment in which I realised that this film was truly fantastic was a few minutes in. Dexter is sat, presumably about to be filmed by Charlie, and starts to talk into the camera. I assumed that this was the scene that he was acting in, before Charlie interrupts his monologue, revealing it to be only his inner thoughts. Not only did this swiftly introduce the film’s main source of exposition (Dexter’s inner discussions), it also showcases both Hall’s talent for acting and Gilbert’s talent for writing.
The film is also a lot funnier than I’d expected it to be (and I won’t ruin the funny bits). Charlie is the most self-deprecating character Gilbert has ever played, as well as the most against-type. The characters he has played in his previous films have all been similar: disillusioned, emotionally scarred loners. Charlie on the other hand is an overly confident, profane and blunt individual, and serves mostly as the film’s comic relief; for the first time, Gilbert is not centrestage. That spot is reserved for Hall instead.
And there’s no better way of putting this: he is brilliant in the part. Gilbert seems to have tailor made the role for him, and it shows. His monologues are deeply compelling, but apart from those, the source of most of the film’s dialogue is Charlie, with most of Hall’s performance being in gestures and facial expressions. If I’ve had one complaint with Gilbert’s films up to TWIH, it’s that Gilbert the director and actor have often overshadowed Gilbert the writer. TWIH showcased more of a balance between the three, and Grey Area carries this on. As a director he coaxes a fantastic performance out of Hall, as an actor he gives his best performance yet, and as a writer he is at his most assured.
The film is utterly brilliant. And I mean that. Does it have flaws? Yes, what film doesn’t? It’s a few minutes too long, and it sometimes feels more like a play than a film, but these are nitpicks. This film is Gilbert’s least derivative (looking at you, Fifty-Six Year Old Boy), and his most assured. It almost feels like all of his films have been leading up to this one.
In short, I really liked it. And you should watch it. Right here in fact:
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Have a nice day!