All Good Children

 

IT COULD BE the start of a Roald Dahl story. Following the death of their mother, two Irish adolescent brothers, are packed off to a rural French idyll. They’ve barely arrived when their estranged father takes off, leaving the fragile youngsters to their own devices.

Dara, the younger boy, is immediately taken with Bella, the titian-haired gamine next door, who responds to his pre-teen crush by batting her eyelashes and teaching him naughty words. Dara is already besotted when she plants him with a sneaky kiss: “We will live in the forest,” he swoons, “and no one will ever find us.”

Sadly, the little minx has no intention of living in a forest. Her subsequent rejection of Dara’s attentions destroys an already tenuous grip on reality. The dreamy visuals, dripping taps and ambient hums that define his world suddenly give way to jarring close-ups and spiky edits as we’re cajoled towards a tragic denouement.

This remarkable debut feature from Irish writer-director Alicia Duffy has a classic arthouse feel. There’s a dead fox in the woods after Tarkovsky, languorous voiceover after Malick, and fragmented grammar after Scorsese. It’s all a bit of ruse, actually. All Good Children, a beautiful vase with nasty springy snakes inside, owes just as much to Fatal Attractionas it does to canon. The pretty pictures sit all the prettier for it.


Opens December 27th