Romans tells a mostly gripping and urgent story, but the film’s underwhelming and sometimes misjudged decisions keep it from rising above superior fare that tackles similar issues, namely Spotlight and Calvary.
This portrait of a damaged man striving for normality yet actually a razor’s-width from emotional collapse would have far less to recommend it without Orlando Bloom’s central performance, and, let’s face it, star quality. Many Bloom fans won’t have seen him like this before; it’s not a particularly vocal performance, yet he is able to turn on a dime between different emotions, and also allows us to see through the cold façade Malky uses to keep others at bay.
Malky’s preponderance for wordlessness has the unfortunate effect of pushing rubbish state-the-obvious dialogue into the mouths of other characters, a problem that contributes to the soapy feel of some argumentative scenes. The music too is a bit hammy and overdone, while writer Geoff Thompson’s taste in metaphors can be decidedly heavy-handed.
Visual metaphors work slightly better, permeating the nondescript setting with religious imagery that manifests the conflict between Malky’s past trauma and the faith he can’t seem to stop being a part of.
As Malky’s mother, Anne Reid gives a fine performance but is consigned to a predictable fate. In the final act, Romans takes a sharp and baffling turn towards the supernatural that its drab, naturalistic palette just can’t accommodate. Romans’ worst offence, though, is its potentially dangerous final message. Religious lessons of forgiveness are elevated over formal justice in a move which seems to both unquestioningly reaffirm the Catholic Church and go too easy on Malky’s attacker.
Bloom reveals hidden depths, yet the Shammasian brothers’ craftsmanship often falls short. Romans is a haunting character study yet its problematic conclusion haunts for all the wrong reasons.
CAST: Orlando Bloom, Janet Montgomery, Charlie Creed-Miles
DIRECTORS: Ludwig Shammasian, Paul Shammasian
WRITER: Geoff Thompson
SYNOPSIS: An adult victim of childhood sexual abuse confronts the horrors of his past.[TRAILER FORTHCOMING]