REVIEW: MARTYRS LANE (EIFF 2021, Ipso Facto)

Martyrs Lane is Ruth Platt’s third feature film and focuses on Leah, a young 10 year old girl living in a vicarage with her parents and troublesome older sister. Leah (Kiera Thompson) lacks affection from her mum Sarah (Denise Gough) and starts to notice that her mum sleeps with a golden locket in her hand. Curious over the significance of the locket, Leah stumbles across it and opens it up; subsequently opening a gateway where she is visited daily by young girl with a ghostly stature (Rachel),

Martyrs Lane is a slow burner from the offset with a fairly uneventful first hour but this is required to set up the events to follow. Straight off the bat, Martyrs Lane isn’t a horror movie per say, it is a drama which deals with subject matters such as bereavement and questions the afterlife. Unfortunately, the opening hour of the film drags itself at a very slow pace and it can be very off putting and may be difficult to hold the attention of most viewers but try to stick with it.

Martyrs Lane places a lot of smart symbolism within its scenes which you might miss if you blink. One of the best examples of this is the appearance of a dragonfly which is known to be a gatekeeper to the spirit world. The film may test your patience at times but it is beautifully shot throughout and there is plenty of enjoyment to be found in finding the hints which will take you on a path to finding out what is actually happening.

The relationship between Leah and the ghost Rachel is childish throughout but they are both children after all and the humour fits their generation. I liked the way the ghost was portrayed in the sense that it wasn’t purely there for jump scares and creepy set-pieces. Infact, contrary to what I expected, the ghost doesn’t really show a darker side until the final third of the film. The human aspect of Rachel’s character was done very well.

In the final third of the film, Martyrs Lane comes out of its shell and is quite simply excellent. The pace picks up considerably and the excitement ramps up. The ending is both intelligent and original and really opens up adult discussions around loss and bereavement. I really enjoyed the build up to the films climax and I just wish the opening hour had similar pacing and direction.

Martyrs Lane showed a lot of promise but it was sadly let down by a lack of tension and action. However, this is still a very good film that brings something different to the table. It has great production values and story concepts but it felt like a short story stretched into a feature length due to a distinct lack of action.

Score: 3/5

Martyrs Lane will be screened at The Filmhouse on 20th & 22nd August as part of Edinburgh International Film Festival 2021.

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