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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

A Banquet


Starring: Sienna Guillory, Jessica Alexander and Ruby Stokes
Distributor: Second Sight Films


Certificate: 15
Release Date: 31 October 2022

Second Sight Films releases a Limited Edition Blu-ray of Ruth Paxton’s debut film, A Banquet. It is a psychological and emotional pot-boiler which pushes the boundaries of human existence and how we cope with our own and other people’s extreme experiences. Holly (Sienna Guillory of Resident Evil, Luthor and Love Actually) has just lost her husband to advanced cancer. She is distressed and broken but attempts to keep it together for the sake of her two teenage daughters. The eldest, Betsey (Jessica Alexander), attends a party but is thereafter ‘changed’ beyond all recognition. Initially, Holly believes it to be the result of substances she may have taken, but the alteration in character is beyond all recognition. Betsey completely stops eating; the very idea causes her to be physically sick. However, her weight appears to remain constant. She slips into prolonged trances, sleeps for much of the rest of the time and is periodically seen to be conversing with someone or something. These episodes deeply affect the rest of the family, and matters are exacerbated by the strict opinions of Holly’s mother June (Lindsay Duncan). But Betsey has a new secret revelation...

This offers a new meaning to the term dysfunctional family. The difference is that these events are real (whether they are believable is another matter). Right from the beginning we are subjected to an extremely disturbing scene wherein Holly’s husband is in the final stages of cancer. He suffers constant sickness, pain and distress, and his eyes are pleading. To be brutally honest, it is difficult to watch. The fact Betsey witnesses her father take his own life is a telling factor, particularly as she attempts to follow suit shortly afterwards. It’s easy to believe that everything which happens to Betsey – her gradual regression – stems from her father’s horrific death, but certain aspects leave it open to impression/interpretation. Firstly, none of these changes take place until she wanders into the woods behind a house party. Is she possessed or psychotic? Or something else. She talks about a new world order, but also stresses everything is for nothing. So, there is plenty of ambiguity – which is something I welcome in a film.

Some nice Special Features put the icing on the cake for a very effective and well-paced film exploring a fictional side of mental health. Deformity of the Flesh is an Interview with Director Ruth Paxton. Improvised Exorcism is an Interview with Betsey actress Jessica Alexander. Produced in a Pandemic is an Interview with Leonora Darby. Dark Edges is an Interview with Cinematographer David Liddell. There is a Glasgow Film Festival Q & A with Ruth Paxton, Jessica Alexander & Sienna Guillory. Family Disorder is the Making of Banquet.


Ty Power

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