Looking at the poster for The Road Dance, you’d think it’s just another sugary, overly sentimental period drama – with happy people, picturesque landscapes, and our main character gazing wistfully at the far ahead of the stage. And the film’s opening does little to convince you otherwise, exploring an idyllic, tight-knit community in the Outer Hebrides as they carry out daily chores and share stories around the campfire.
Yet when the aforementioned main character, Kirsty (Hermione Corfield), is the victim of a gruesome crime, you quickly realize that this idealized introduction has been something of a bait and switch, luring you into a false sense of security before the real drama of the story takes place.
While struggling to navigate the aftermath of this crime – as she slowly tries to piece together both what happened to her and who is responsible – Kirsty faces additional grief, as her new love interest, Murdo (Will Fletcher), was called up for service in the First World War.
Based on the book of the same name by author John MacKay, it’s a surprisingly gripping story that delves into incredibly sensitive issues with impressive levels of empathy and compassion. Director Richie Adams deserves great credit for handling a difficult story and several delicate subjects with grace and poise – refusing to exploit tragedy for melodrama, but instead questioning the impact trauma can have on real people.
Currently, while the right to abortion in the United States is under the threatand the welfare of women in the West is increasingly neglected, the messages of this film hit harder than Adams probably would have anticipated when he first took on this project – feeling almost educational in their relevance to modern times.
Corfield also deserves credit for her work in what is undoubtedly a complex role, demonstrating the far-reaching emotional impact of Kirsty’s experiences with remarkable poise. He’s a character who goes through so much and finds himself in such a vulnerable position, but Corfield underpins his portrayal with a steel and resilience that provides an uplifting sense of optimism, even in times of intense grief.
Those behind the camera do a stellar job, too, helping to create an immersive, believable world for these characters to live in – complete with compelling and authentic costumes, sets, and sound design. And in an age of cinema where green screens and sound stage shoots seem to be all the rage, it’s refreshing to see a production team brave the elements on location to further absorb audiences into the narrative.
Despite all the positives, The Road Dance isn’t perfect. Some plot developments are awfully predictable, with some big reveals not landing as forcefully as expected. Sometimes the dialogue is a little on the nose, especially in the cheesier moments between Kirsty and Murdo. And at almost two hours, the length is slightly too long, often risking losing the audience’s attention.
It is an effective, immersive and brilliantly crafted narrative of tragedy and resilience. Although the book is set over a century ago, Adams ensures the film is fresh and relevant, delivering poignant messages with empathy and sensitivity. After this impressive outing, he might just be on his way to greatness.
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A period drama that packs a punch, with great performances and an unexpectedly impactful story at its heart.