Claire Oakley’s debut feature Make Up is an absorbing and compelling mystery, anchored by a dazzling turn by Molly Windsor.
Anyone who has ever seen The Shining can attest to the fact that a hotel or holiday camp empty of guests can take on an uneasy, otherworldly quality.
Having possibly run away from her family, Ruth (Windsor) is immediately thrown off-kilter to find her boyfriend Tom is not there to meet her when she arrives at a holiday camp in the dead of night. Shown to an empty, untidy caravan, it is hardly the welcome she would have desired. When Tom does arrive, their reunion is perfunctory rather than passionate.
While Tom works on preparing the holiday park for the winter off-season, Ruth tidies their living quarters and discovers a lipstick mark on the mirror and long red hairs on Tom’s clothes. To discover the truth, she sets down a path of paranoia and obsession as dark and murky as the sea.
Ruth’s emotions are all at sea and like the tide, constantly pulling her in different directions. What she needs is an anchor to latch onto. The turning point comes when Ruth meets Jade, a fellow employee who is not only the prime suspect but may also hold the key to Ruth’s liberation.
Inside her mobile home lie a host of wigs and make up. Not only can they be used to cover up and conceal the truth but it allow you to become someone else. Or express who you really are inside. Is Tom her salvation or is he pulling her down with him?
Molly Windsor delivers an understated but nuanced performance. Starting off shy and meek, she slowly comes out of her shell to face the oncoming tempest head-on.
The washed out tones are bleak and despairing however as Ruth digs further into her mystery and uncovers pieces of the puzzle, there are pops of colour and brightness. A bright red nail polish, scarlett wig or drops of blood develop a new palette of lust and danger.
Writer-director Oakley and cinematographer Nick Cooke do a fantastic job of generating an air of confusion and dread. One as thick as the haar coming in off the Cornish sea.
As original and fascinating a coming-of-age story as Julia Ducournau’s Raw, Make Up is a stunning siren’s song of a calling card for Oakley.
Make Up is in cinemas and available on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday 31st July.
Director: Claire Oakely
Stars: Molly Windsor, Joseph Quinn, Stefanie Martini
Runtime: 86 minutes