Amaryllis review: The weirdest split-screen silent film musical you’ll ever see – The Guardian

dDirector Thomas Lawes is the proverbial one-man band of this modern silent film. Not only has he written, filmed, edited and composed the music, he’s also seen playing the keyboards, guitars and drums of the split-screen synthwave score below the action, like a funky sign language interpreter. It’s a kitschy formal quirk that initially adds a kind of distancing effect to this simple urban fable, but quickly becomes invisible (presumably less so in live-accompaniment screenings).

Ella McLoughlin plays Amaryllis, a sullen, beanie-wearing skater girl who lives with her alcoholic mother (Liz May Brice). After breaking into a warehouse where drug dealer Waifish Roach (Adam El Hagar) is doing business, he manages to work his way into making errands for him. Taking a cut, he aims to save enough to move out and, as he writes animated journal excerpts, “I don’t need to see my stupid whore mother whore again!” But as Roach starts pulling up to her door in his flaming camper van, Amaryllis begins to fall for the doe-eyed pushover.

Fueled by Lawes’ music, Amaryllis’ drug-dealing missions have a picaresque rush as he skates through town; the fresh-faced McLoughlin, with no dialogue to lean on, is expressive without turning the film into one long charade session. But Lawes’s split-screen gimmick isn’t really groundbreaking, aside from a moment when a rapper in the main action threatens to overtake the diegetic, and it adds little impetus to a teen photo story with little to surprise . The romantic Cornish surf interlude is particularly cheesy, and there are some awkward workarounds, such as dialogue scribbled on scraps of paper affixed to the windows. In the end, this is a better advertisement for Lawes’ songwriting than his storytelling.

Amaryllis opens in theaters on November 25.

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