Cherry Tree Lane (18)

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The Independent Culture

Paul Andrew Williams set the bar so high with his scalding debut London to Brighton (2006) that whatever followed was almost bound to be a comedown, and his second film, black comedy The Cottage, duly fizzled.

His latest returns to the white-knuckle tension of the debut, and reveals it to be no fluke. A middle-class couple's dinner is interrupted by the doorbell, whereupon three youths (two black, one white) break in and take them hostage at knife-point. The spoor of Michael Haneke's home-invasion horror Funny Games is discernible, though here the malignity is not so motiveless: it seems the couple's teenage son is "a grass", and must now get his comeuppance. Rachael Blake and Tom Butcher are absolutely plausible as the terrorised pair, and Williams's extreme close-ups of them are unsparing. Like Haneke, the director creates a mood of violence while holding off from graphic depiction – this is no torture porn. Its suggestion of a conscienceless underclass will be as a red rag to more conservative souls, but you suspect Williams won't care. He's becoming a real player in the cinema of ordeal.

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