The type of film that wants to be a suspenseful little thriller, littered with enough twists and turns to keep its somewhat pedestrian core narrative interesting, Help, from writer/director Blake Ridder, can’t help but fail to truly attain the heights it clearly reaches for.
There’s a lot going on – perhaps too much – throughout Help, which initially centres around the reunion of Liv (Sarah Alexandra Marks) and Grace (Emily Redpath), two British besties who, we gather, have a history of volatility between them. Grace arrives at Liv’s secluded home – one she shares with beau Edward (Louis James) – and even from their supposed happy hellos there’s a lingering sense of distrust and secrecy between them. Whether this was intentional or not, Help always feels as if it’s a film waiting to pull the rug from under you.
Over the course of the few days the trio are spending together, secrets regarding Liv’s past, the suggestion of infidelity on Edward’s half, and Grace’s faux innocence in both affairs come to light, leading to an eventual confrontation that (too easily) leans into Edward’s toxicity as a controlling husband. Ridder’s script admittedly enjoys toying with our expectations of each character – everyone is shaded in grey rather than simplistic black and white – but there isn’t enough time devoted to fleshing out their dynamics, so when the climax arrives with a surprising bloody mentality, we are more than taken aback.
The film has a “made for television” look about it which ultimately suits the trashy, melodramatic temperament it adopts. This is further extended to the cast, with both James and Marks unable to adopt the subtlety their characters require; it doesn’t help their case either that both Edward and Liv are particularly insufferable characters. Redpath escapes mostly unscathed, playing Grace as someone who means well and never intends on saying or doing the wrong thing, but is human enough to make those mistakes all the same without painting herself as the victim. Ridder gives himself a smaller role, the rather bizarre character of David, a nosy neighbour who oversees a portion of Edward and Liv’s activities and hopes to shed a light on this. The character’s developmental challenges feel more shoehorned in as a plot convenience rather than an organic trait, continuing the film’s uneven tone across its ingredients.
Whilst there’s some fun to be had in its over-the-top finale, one that lets blood run at a more frequent rate than what the first two acts suggest, Help is ultimately a frustrating product due to it being unable to finetune the fine ideas it peppers throughout. In wanting to please a large section of its audience, it feels unsure to commit to one tone, leaving its slow-burn-cum-soap-operatic mentality inanimate.
Help is available to rent internationally on iTunes, Amazon Prime, VUDU, Microsoft and Google Play from February 15th, 2022