Damaged (2015, Darren A. Furniss)

What do you really know about the seemingly ordinary people around you? Nottinghamshire filmmaker Darren A. Furniss and his debut feature, Damaged, moves between the lives of six individuals as the viewer learns of the disturbing secrets locked inside their own thoughts.

Damaged tells its stories in an episodic structure with violence and sex at the centre of each. ‘Talent’, for instance, follows Kayleigh whose relationship with a shady man soon sees her coerced into the adult film world.

Darren Furniss takes an interesting direction – perhaps also born out of budget constraints – by choosing to tell the stories entirely through interior monologues. There are no conventional dialogue exchanges, each character reveals their innermost thoughts and feelings in sometimes graphic detail to the viewer.

These musings are accompanied by haunting, off-kilter images (courtesy of Darren’s brother and Nottinghamshire based director of photography, David), as well as a suitably moody, unsettling score composed by Jessamie Kaitler.

The effect is something approaching a Terrence Malick film crossed with David Cronenberg – Damaged is an unsettling, filthy, yet oddly poetic sensory experience filmed in locations around Newark, the most interesting being the indoor scenes shot in the Old Magnus Buildings.

Characters are often captured in extreme close-ups wandering aimlessly in run-down rooms, usually with their back to the wall or pressed up against the corner, in a crumbling environment that elegantly points to the cracks that exist within all of the people populating Damaged.

The cast of actors are all mostly based in the East Midlands and particularly within Nottinghamshire. For many of them, Damaged is their first feature performance and they put in strong turns, relying on subtle facial expressions and body gestures to give the at times drowsy monologues weight and poignancy.

If Damaged shows signs of First Film syndrome, it is in the script and its pacing. At just under 90 minutes long, the curious method of storytelling at times struggles to keep pace with the on-screen visuals, making for an experience that feels oddly distant and difficult to latch onto emotionally, ironic considering how intense the monologues often are.

Damaged is an extremely sexually charged film and it may take a while to get used to its lack of manners. This works well a lot of the time at making the viewer feel uneasy but certain stories such as ‘Playground’, centring on an inconspicuous office employee who appears to be suffering from nymphomania, balances precariously between hard-hitting screenwriting and juvenile profanity. Dave especially seems incapable of going one line without uttering something that wouldn’t be out of place in The Inbetweeners.

But faults aside, Darren Furniss and everybody at Midlander Films have opened their filmography with a distinct, haunting picture that demonstrates a talented cast of artists destined for even better in the future.

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