Kate (Ruth Wilson) visits her elderly grandmother in a nursing home, blushing and glowing about a man. Her grandmother asks her to embellish further about him, and she can’t quite do it. After all, they had shared one intense sexual encounter, but he came into her world and rearranged everything like a robust and consistent gust of wind. For director Harry Wootliff’s True Things, this story is a precursor to a relationship that devours Kate’s world entirely. That’s what love can do – or what we think love is. It’s a predator that takes no prisoners. However, there’s a fine line between love and lust. They can both appear to look like the same thing – the difference is intention.
Kate’s life is morose and forlorn at the beginning of the film. She works at a benefits office where she gets reprimanded for being late. Her friend Alison (Haley Squires), married with children, gets on her to get her life together or is unavailable because of her familial requirements. Kate’s parents (played by Frank McCuster and Elizabeth Rider) are happy to provide her with plentiful fruits and vegetables, but are justifiably worried about her. She submerges herself in a beach fantasy with a man she cannot see the face of. On the surface, Kate is just merely existing. That all changes when a man walks into her job one day. Blond (Tom Burke) is ragged, full of charisma, and completely intoxicated Kate with possibilities. Even though he never gives full confirmation other than passionate flings and fleeting parables.
DOP Ashley Connor prefers to frame most of the film tight. The audience will see a lot of things from Kate’s eye level. Feel every ounce of anxiousness as she types and erases texts to Blond. Down to the feeling of euphoria when she’s with him. This relationship completely alters her behavior – Kate plays hooky from work to be with him, allows him to borrow her car, and even engages in drug use at a party. While this is happening, Blond, at points, seems disinterested – even refuting any long-term aspirations to be with her. But it’s that one percent chance, an invitation to his sister’s wedding, or comment saying “we’re soulmates” that keeps her holding on.
Does Kate think she can change him? Well, no, she hasn’t found who she is. In trying to do so in a listless person, she careens down a path of disillusion and sadness. Blond is quite happy with his non-conventional life that Kate barely knows the essential details about. The writing team of Wootliff and Molly Davies wants you to feel sorry for Kate and almost angry. Blond leaves Kate at parties, completely tears into her during a date, and doesn’t value her as a person. Yet, the rationed-out passion that he gives is enough for Kate to abandon the strands of her self-worth.
And why? Details are minute. Ruth Wilson’s performance as Kate is something that grounds the film considerably. She wades in and out of sadness, anger, and brief happiness at a drop of a dime. Burke plays her romantic counterpart (and sometimes foil) well, but you feel that Blond could have been anyone who didn’t seem conventional. Kate surfs on dating apps during True Things and even goes on one, but nothing gives her the electricity that this connection does. It’s hard to understand why that is. Alison warns her about being used. Absolutely nothing is better while Blond weaves in and out of her life. Lastly, even with considerable time spent together, Kate still can’t articulate concrete things she likes about him. He’s her escape, but not to a beach – more like an endless tunnel.
It’s perhaps why Kate’s revelation that she can do better than him doesn’t hit as hard. Blond gives her endless reasons why the union should end. Yet, she can’t quit the maddening cycle. If there were a reference that the audience knew of why Kate clings to a man like this, the full-fledged journey would have been more well-rounded. Her redemption is immediate in the third act, but is so abrupt that the audience wouldn’t be able to cheer on why she sees Blond is poison for her. Details are the reason True Things doesn’t reach its full emotionally touching potential.
Photo Credit: TIFF