In Claire Oakley’s Make Up, we follow a young woman who desperately seeks the truth about whether or not her boyfriend has been unfaithful. The slow-burn tale illustrates the intensity of the feelings and insecurities one has when in a relationship at a young age and the growth that will inevitably come out of it.
Ruth (Molly Windsor) arrives at an isolated trailer park in the middle of the night. I confess at this point I was particularly unnerved thinking the worst of the situation. Instead, Ruth has arrived to stay with her boyfriend Tom (Joseph Quinn). They are a young and seemingly in-love couple. However, things begin to fall apart for Ruth when she discovers a lipstick stain on a mirror and red hair on Tom’s clothes.
Although the film has some of the markings of a quirky coming of age story, Oakley adopts the styling of a psychological thriller. A sombre and eerie journey through Ruth’s emotional spiralling. A foreboding presence seems to be lurking over her and a series of unnerving things sending signals to run; such as the foxes that screech during the night, screeching that sounds like a woman being attacked in the woods. The old lady that watches her through the window from across the lot. The seaside local may be often be associated with idyllic scenery, but here the crash of waves send shivers down one’s spine. Again, that unnerving feeling I felt when Ruth arrives at the trailer park comes back quite often. Once Ruth meets Jade (Stefanie Martini), who she becomes convinced is the other girl, the film gradually builds on Ruth’s complicated relationship with Jade and develops into a full-blown psycho-sexual drama by the third act.
Ruth occupies the majority of the film, but there is a distance between us and her. Oakley creates an atmosphere where we are almost voyeurs, watching as Ruth unravels and transforms. The film is carried by Oakley’s assured directing and vision, but it is also Windsor’s performance, which is extravagantly subtle and impactful, that truly captures our attention.
There are many familiar routes for a story that starts with a potential cheating, but Oakley takes us on another journey that is surprising, eccentric, and unique. The story is about losing confidence in something you held so dearly and regaining confidence in something else entirely, yourself. The film is in no rush to reveal the answers that Ruth so desperately seeks, and the film is better for it. Oakley is certainly a director to watch, she sure knows how to make an anxiety-ridden film.
Make Up was scheduled to screen at SXSW but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It has yet to secure a release date.
by Ferdosa Abdi
Ferdosa Abdi is a lifelong film student and aspiring film festival programmer. Her favourite genres are science-fiction, fantasy, and horror and her favourite director is Guillermo del Toro. She is madly in love with Eva Green and believes she should be cast in everything. You can follow Ferdosa on Twitter @atomicwick