Director: Ben Sharrock
By Rhys Tarling
A tale that’s inherent dreariness is masked with whimsical direction and some expertly timed moments of absurdist comedy, Pikadero is an idiosyncratic if unfocused feature film debut from writer/director Ben Sharrock.
Unable to fly the nest due to the economic crisis that grips Spain, a young couple have trouble consummating their relationship in their parents’ homes. The film follows the couple’s hilarious and ill-advised attempts to find some privacy, and it’s through these attempts that they learn more about the other and realise that life might be pulling them in irrevocably different directions.
Pikadero’s storytelling mostly consists of a series of deadpan conversations and dryly ridiculous humour. Every scene is created with such simple yet painstaking attention to detail, complete with pastel colours and meticulous staging and timing. Because of this, sometimes the scenes come off as airless, depthless – artificial, sometimes it accentuated the humour, sometimes it enhanced the turbulent feelings of the characters, and a couple of times it rendered the scene utterly lifeless and dull. Sharrock’s sense of directorial style is so obviously deliberate and favours stillness. Which is ironic because the effect of this style is all over the place. In a word, which I had hoped to avoid, it’s quirky.
The direction was a fascinating juxtaposition to the theme of this film: uncertainty. Everyone is uncertain. Ninety percent of the time when a question is asked the answer is invariably “I dunno.” Although uncertainty is a positive quality here as it’s “the difference between living and existing” says one of the characters in the final scene. It’s a comforting sentiment.
The acting was outstanding. The script was quite barren in terms of giving them moments and much of the dialogue is deliberately banal, so the fact that every character felt so vivid and authentic was truly impressive. Barbara Goenaga and Joseba Usabiaga had terrific chemistry too. I was strangely invested in their various attempts to get some privacy. Their last few scenes together are breathtaking, helped by the fact that at that point Sharrok ditched the cutesy direction and let things play out naturally, trusting the talents of the actors to carry it. The supporting cast were little more than stage props who would spout absurd things to illustrate to the audience that they were a Boring Character or a Quirky Character. They were fine.
Pikadero will either annoy you with its affectations or you’ll fall in love with them. Nonetheless, the story foundation is solid and its elevated to poignancy when Sharrok gives the actors breathing room. Worth a watch at the very least.
Catch Pikadero at Luna SX on Sunday 10 July.
For more information visit the Revelation Film Festival Website.