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Crush
cast: Marcia Gay Hayden, Donogh Rees, Caitlin Bossley, William Zappa and Pete Smith

director: Alison Maclean

115 minutes (15) 1992
widescreen ratio 16:9
Tartan DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
A horrific car accident leaves literary critic Christina (Donogh Rees) brain damaged and propels close friend Lane (Marcia Gay Harden) into a tumultuous relationship with author Colin Iseman and his daughter Angela. Initially just there to finish the writing assignment given to Christina, Lane finds herself unable to move on and gradually dragged down into a complex morass of emotions.

Alison Maclean's film gets the crash out of the way straight away, neatly essaying the friendship between Lane and Christina then breaking it apart at over a hundred miles an hour. It's a fantastically clever structural move, allowing the rest of the film to explore the effect the crash has on those involved and leaving the characters to try and crawl from the wreckage.

Front and centre in all this is Harden as Lane. She' a hugely gifted character-actor and is really given a chance to stretch her muscles here. Lane is neither heroine nor villainess. She's a good person desperate to atone for the damage to her friend who simply doesn't know how to react to what's going on. Christina may have the lasting physical damage from the crash but it's Lane who shows the psychological scars, running the gamut from vampish to vulnerable and back again. She's sympathetic at one moment and contemptible at another and the performance is always absolutely on the button. A woman absolutely trapped by circumstances and unable to make any choice without hurting someone, she's a fascinating character and this is a great central performance from Harden. Her attraction to both Angela and Colin is handled carefully and intelligently, and her relationship with Colin borders on the tragic. As much an attempt to save herself from the horrible consequences of a relationship with Angela, it becomes a life raft that they both find themselves clinging to. Lane wants to feel normal and Colin wants to feel loved and together they somehow manage to get something more to grow from it. It's not the conventional Hollywood romance by any stretch of the imagination but it's sensitively and intelligently played. It's these scenes that William Zappa also excels in, providing fragility to the role that again flies in the face of accepted wisdom. Colin is effectively broken, barely communicating with his daughter and, just as Lane finds herself propelled into a relationship she doesn't understand, Colin finds himself in one he's not sure he wants.

Caught between the two, almost literally, is Caitlin Bossley as Angela. It's traditional to look down on teenage and child actors and often with very good reason. Bossley however, is phenomenal as Angela, a teenager trying out her femininity and completely unsure both of what she wants and what is expected of her. Like Lane, Angela runs the gamut from hero to villain and like Lane she's an element of chaos in all the relationships she's involved in.

Finally, Donogh Rees is hugely impressive as Christina. Essaying a bright, articulate woman in the opening scenes, she, once again, is faced with a role that would be all too easy to see slipping into stereotype. However, as Angela becomes increasingly embittered and unbalanced by her injuries, she too becomes more than what's expected of her. The closing scenes, set high in the woods of New Zealand are some of her best, as Angela is faced with a choice between accepting her fate and lashing out at the person responsible for it.

Set in the staggeringly beautiful New Zealand countryside, Crush is a unique examination of obsession, affection, injury and loss. It confounds every expectation, provides surprises at every turn and is deeply involving. As much a character study as a psychological thriller, it's a deeply human film about deeply flawed people and one that I can't recommend highly enough.
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