Red Road

Written by Jeff Sparks


Red Road is the feature film debut of both legendary director Andrea Arnold and actress Kate Dickie. Coming after Arnold’s award-winning slice of life short Wasp, here Arnold decided to go for a more plot-based narrative. The film follows Dickie as Jackie Morrison, a CCTV operator in Glasgow who spots a man from her past and hatches a plan to get vengeance on him for an unknown crime he committed. Jackie takes her job very seriously as she acts as a watchful eye over the citizens of the area, often remembering individual people she watches during her shift. It’s implied she has been reclusive for many years, only accompanied by the crimes she witnesses on her cameras. When she finds out the man responsible for the tragedy, Clyde, has been released from prison, he becomes her obsession.

While spying on Clyde on her cameras a woman is stabbed due to her neglect. Realizing she is better off not on the cameras, she takes matters into her own hands and begins ingratiating herself into Clydes’ friend group which includes former Arnold actress Natalie Press. The film reaches a high point when Dickie gives a brave performance in a graphic sex scene where Jackie does what she has been planning all along. After finishing Jackie retrieves the used condom and heads to the bathroom where she uses the semen from the condom along with hitting herself in the face with a rock to frame Clyde for rape. Committed to her plan, she flees the building, running by a CCTV camera on her way. In this scene, we are treated to Arnold’s attention to detail. Earlier in the film, Jackie had had sex in a car with a man she works with. Afterwards she had eyed up the used condom that was left sitting in her car. Many directors would just have their characters come up with ideas on the fly, but instead, Arnold takes the time to show how a character’s experiences can brew in their minds and show where their actions come from.

Next, we find out the crime Clyde has committed was of killing Jackies’ family in a car accident. After Clyde has been arrested Jackie sees his daughter attempting to visit him. She then drops the charges, knowing a girl without her father will just add more to the suffering in the world that she sees every day on her cameras, the suffering that she is supposed to prevent. Kate Dickie is magnetic in the film and hardworking as usual. Press once again works well in an Arnold film and compliments Dickie as a nice piece. Arnold captures the location of Glasgow as very gloomy and gray. Garbage litters the ground, stray dogs run about in this soulless world Jackie inhabits, herself not much better than the people around her. Red Road marked not only an impressive start in feature films for Andrea Arnold but also showcased her talent as one of the best at utilizing individual actors and allowing them to have the space to create. In this film, she gave the unknown Kate Dickie the room to do what she does best and give her first great performance of her career. 

Red Road Trailer

Red Road is streaming on Kanopy.

You can follow Jeff Sparks on Instagram and Letterboxd.

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