Martyrs Lane (15) |Home Ents Review

Dir. Ruth Platt, UK, 2022, 97 mins

Cast: Kiera Thompson, Sienna Sayer, Denise Gough, Hannah Rae, Steven Cree

Review by Colin Dibben

This spooky tale of grief and family secrets is told from the perspective of a young girl, to great effect.

Leah (Thompson) lives in a large, old vicarage with her kind but busy father and her detached, miserable mother. In an attempt to bring herself closer to her mum, Leah steals the contents of a locket that her mum keeps around her neck.

After losing the contents – a lock of hair – Leah meets a strange young girl (Sayer) in the woods near her house. The girl is unkempt and pale and she gets Leah to play with her, a game that involves the waif knocking on Leah’s window at night.

What does the girl want? Why does she give Leah fake clues to the whereabouts of the lock of hair, clues that slowly reveal something else?

Writer-director Ruth Platt based the look and feel of this tremendous ghost story on a house she grew up in – and the dark, dusty Edwardian atmosphere is excellent, shot through with pinpricks of detail that are caught on Márk Györi’s cinematography.

Denise Gough plays the mother with sensitivity, but it’s the more playful, inquisitive acting of Kiera and Sienna that impresses. They offset each other brilliantly: Sienna plays a very physical ghost, with a tangibly threatening edge to her voice. Kiera grounds her character’s inquisitiveness in a deep-rooted, quieter emotional neediness.

The film is all the better for being lensed from Leah’s perspective, most notably when watching her mum suffering in bed, through a door.

There’s only one plot contrivance, but it is a big one. Put that to one side and enjoy feeling unsettled by creepy girls and an old, dark house that harbours secrets.

Trailer:

Martyrs Lane is out on DVD and digital download on 4 July.

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