Television writer turned feature filmmaker Harry Wootliff announced herself onto the scene with acclaimed directorial debut Only You in 2018. Returning to similar subject matter with follow-up piece True Things, she picks apart another lustful, complicated fling. Based upon the novel by poet Deborah Kay Davies, the psychological thriller plot follows reckless lost soul Kate (Ruth Wilson) as she struggles to cope with the daily grind of life.
During a dull shift at her dead-end desk job, she meets a scruffy, roguish stranger whom she adds to her phone as Blond (Tom Burke) and when he asks her out on a date, she grasps at the chance of dangerous adventure, seeking respite from her humdrum existence.
Set against the bleakness of a grey and nondescript seaside town, an unsettling tone is established as the narrative moves to Kate’s untidy routine. When she encounters Blond, it’s less ‘meet-cute’ and more meet-destitute as their eyes connect over the counter at the dreary benefits office where she works. The close and clammy, intimate visual style adds to the scuzzy atmosphere, the invasive camera latching onto the central pair as their self-destructive paths uncomfortably cling together.
Wilson gives an alarmingly raw performance, portraying Kate’s vulnerabilities with aplomb and leaving her susceptible to manipulation from Burke’s peroxide ex-con. He is equally superb in his role; two-parts charming, one-part gaslighting, carrying on the cruel characteristics from his turn in Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir.
This may be a story of a blossoming relationship, but it’s about as romantic or sexy as the egg and cress supermarket sandwich Kate picks at on a cold, hard bench during her lunchbreak. Let True Things wash over you but take another shower immediately afterwards; it’s a deeply unpleasant but completely intoxicating experience that masterfully captures the ugly insecurities and uncertainties of a toxic love affair.