Midlands Review - Enemies
By midlandsmovies, Mar 10 2019 09:53AM
Directed by Oliver Griffiths
We open on Bluestone Lake, West Virginia in 1864 where a deserted soldier sits staring out at the water in new Midlands film Enemies from local director Oliver Griffiths.
With a voiceover hinting at a distressing incident from the past the man pauses at a torn Confederate flag representing his doubts about fighting on their side during the American Civil War.
Stranded in the wilderness the distressed soldier (Jonathan Butler as Joseph Barrow) crosses sides (literally traversing a symbolic river) and uses the flowing water to wash his face – and perhaps the sins from his past.
The reason for this is explained as we flashback to the man in a military tent being accosted by a superior (Jonny Parlett) after apparently showing mercy to slaves. It is revealed this man is not only his fellow soldier but his brother Robert Barrow.
After refusing to lie about the army’s horrendous treatment of slaves we return to the present, but the man is haunted by dreams of he and his brother not only punishing slaves but killing them.
Voiceovers help fill in the story and the film does well with its editing which flips from the past to the present without ever confusing the audience.
Director Griffiths began making films at the age of 13 and studied at the University of Derby where he directed multiple short films. His aim to make Enemies “unlike any film I had directed previously” shows in the finished product which aims high in the Hollywood sense.
Whilst some filmmakers are happy to shoot on the local streets, Griffiths and his team do a fantastic job of bringing 19th century America alive right here in the Midlands. The wilderness is faithfully captured and the two leads do well with the appropriate Southern accents.
Parlett as the evil brother justifying his actions through the horrors of war is the standout and his small but intense performance helps keep the drama high. As his character catches up with his wandering brother, the two fight and pistols are draw heightening the film’s tension.
Enemies biggest draw is a good recreation of a turbulent period of history. It’s great to see local filmmakers demonstrate the breadth of filming locations in the area – which can stand in from castles to cities. But here the woods of the region become a gateway into another country altogether.
As the film builds to a violent confrontation of fists and fighting, Enemies shows how some excellent editing, cleverly chosen set ups and two admirable actors committing to their performances can take you away from the region into a different world and time. Griffiths also adds depth to a solid script and captures a host of difficult issues in this dramatic and well-filmed picture about the past.