Written and directed by Dave McKean
For his third feature after Mirrormask and The Gospel of Us, renowned artist Dave McKean invites us to a cottage where grief, the past and magic all collide. This labour of love was filmed on location on the rugged North Devonshire coast seven years ago just before the investment collapsed. McKean has spent the intervening years working on the CGI, soundtrack and pickups.
For those familiar with the artist’s work in illustrating the seminal Arkham Asylum and the covers for the run of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, he again delivers his unique vision of long-limbed, warped fantasy characters, adorned with horns and not-quite faces. Designed, written, directed, co-scored and more by McKean, this truly is a labour of love. The plot follows an estranged couple coming to terms with a personal loss, trying to find some diversion by visiting a mutual friend and his young partner (Defiance and Mirrormask‘s Stephanie Leonidas). But the past has a way of catching up with you, and as secrets are revealed, home truths open the superficial cracks in the relationships. And that’s where the fantasy comes to play.
McKean is working to the maxim ‘write what you know about’, basing the story in part on the experiences of a personal friend. By making the central male characters (Michael Maloney and Ben Daniels) old art school buddies he also gives himself permission to decorate the home with relevant paintings and sketches and maybe giving voice to some of his own personal views on the abuse of art? Deliberately ambiguous, a rationalist might claim that the fantasy elements can be explained as fever dreams or drunken deliriums. But what about that mysterious doctor? Is it just a magical weekend of Luna-cy?
Verdict: Imagine an ethereal Antichrist meets The Magic Cottage by way of Terry Gilliam and you’re nearly there. Or just see it as quintessentially McKean. 8/10