In a Yorkshire town, Pete (Cosmo Jarvis) works as a painter, decorator and generally handyman. While working at a school, he notices Laurie (Lauren Coe), a withdrawn student-athlete who recently relocated to town with her mother (Sadie Frost). Pete and Laurie make friends but Pete carries a secret which threatens the delicate balance of their newly formed relationship.
Between this and Irish movie ‘Calm With Horses’, which came out earlier this year, Cosmo Jarvis has proven himself a compelling actor. His character here is shy and awkward, often drinking and smoking, with an intense, raw energy that makes him unfathomable and threatening. Pete shows sign of being rough when he snatches the headphones off Laurie’s head at a silent disco, pulling her by the arm away from the dance floor. Later he threatens an ex-boyfriend of hers, and a little kid.
Laurie, who initially considers Pete a creep for watching her running at school, only agreeing to go for a drive with him to give the middle finger to her team mates who taunt her, draws the audience in as strongly as Pete thanks to the talent of actress Lauren Coe. There’s a scene where Pete and Laurie run around an arcade with a cuddly toy that emphasises their youth and the innocence of their relationship. About halfway in, you learn what’s really going on and where this is headed. There’s a storm up ahead, and the scene that reveals the truth is as painful as you feared it would be.
For her debut scripted feature, Nathalie Biancheri has done remarkably well, establishing the small town feel of her setting well, so you tangibly get the loneliness Pete and Laurie feel. Michal Dymek’s cinematography is very good, and Aaron Cupples’ music also stands out. But pacing wise, it’s rather plodding, with several shots staying still on the actor, and certain moments in the script can be a bit obvious. The film works best as a character study and slow-burning drama with two genuine lead performances. It is topped with a tearjerker finale. While little happens and you’ve a good idea of how it’s all going to end, it packs quite a punch, and accomplishes much at just over 80 minutes in length.
Nocturnal is showing in cinemas in Ireland and the UK as well as VOD platforms from September 18th.