Musician turned actor Cosmo Jarvis has quietly impressed in small supporting turns for a number of years, and now has his first leading role in Nathalie Biancheri’s unconventional family drama Nocturnal. Painter and decorator Pete (Jarvis) endures a bleak and uncomplicated existence in a small coastal town, but his life is thrown through a loop when old flame Jean (Sadie Frost) returns with his long-estranged teenage daughter Laurie (Lauren Coe) in tow. Attempting to make a connection, he strikes up an unusual friendship with the cynical schoolgirl without revealing his true intentions.
Working class Britain is depicted with a Loachian harshness, and it’s a perfectly paltry landscape for the narrative to unfold. An effective less is more approach is adopted for the superb screenplay, crafted by the director Biancheri and her co-writer Olivia Waring. Slow-burning suspense is shaped by the conversations Pete and Laurie have as they get to know one another, but more importantly in the elongated quieter moments as Pete’s secret begins to weigh heavily on their relationship. Silver screen newcomer Lauren Coe is excellent as the cynical yet vulnerable Laurie but taking centre stage in nearly every scene is Cosmo Jarvis, and he is volatile and visceral as the protagonist. Beaten down by his burden and using alcohol as a coping mechanism, he wants to do the right thing but feels ill-equipped to handle the incredibly sensitive situation.
Nocturnal makes for gripping viewing and the plot is messy in the best way. We witness Pete and Laurie’s worlds on treacherous tracks and spend most of the movie anticipating the inevitable collision. Biancheri controls this complex clash brilliantly and very naturally, and the film successfully showcases the animalistic acting talents of one of the rising stars of British cinema.