Make Up: Movie Review

Contrary to almost all of Europe, Spain didn’t close its cinemas due to the Covid-19 pandemic in October and early November 2020, so I managed to see one of the films of the European Film Festival in a (practically empty) cinema theatre at the beginning of the month (after a few days, Spain also gave up and cinema theatres closed down). Which movie did I see? The 2019 movie entitled Make Up, written and directed by Claire Oakley.

Here’s the plot: 18-year-old Ruth (Molly Windsor) leaves home to be with her boyfriend Tom (Joseph Quinn). He works in a paradisiacal village on the Cornish coast, a popular summer holiday destination for cheerful British families (that is, a dingy caravan park in a windy, wet and rainy place, for anyone who knows the Mediterranean). Once there, Ruth begins to have doubts about her love for Tom and even about her own sexuality after meeting Jade (Stefanie Martini), who also works at the campsite.

The film opens with an ocean view and ends with the same view, but the two shots have a profoundly different meaning. A dialogue between Ruth and the owner of the campsite (Lisa Palfrey) explains it: after swimming in the sea for the first time, one can overcome all her fears. Even if the sentence is not that brilliant, Ruth realizes that something is wrong with her life and only after a swim can she free herself and be with Jade without fear.

The film tells this simple story (apparently the director discovered her homosexuality late, just like the protagonist of her film) by keeping the viewer’s gaze fixed on Ruth, a confused 18-year-old in search of her path. The feeling of insecurity is conveyed with a non-linear editing and the use of almost subliminal flashbacks that I found perfect for depicting the feelings of a teenager.

The attention of the viewer is kept alive with the discovery of Ruth’s suspicions about a red-haired mysterious lover of Tom. At times, the movie almost feels like a horror one (for example when the girl appears at the window of the apartment closed for fumigation).

In short, perhaps it’s not a particularly memorable film, but it tells a touching story that can probably speak to many young people. The director made some non-trivial choices in terms of direction and editing, the soundtrack is well integrated into the narration and it’s fairly cool, and the subject matter is worthy. The young members of the cast worked well too! I don’t know if the movie can be enjoyable on second watch, but I would recommend it. Ciao!


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