Antonia Campbell-Hughes makes her feature directorial debut with ‘It Is In Us All’, a moody but muddled drama set on the windswept west coast of Ireland. There’s a weirdly hypnotic vibe to the film, and if you tune into it you might have a better time with it than I did. I found the whole thing deeply frustrating.
The film follows Hamish (Cosmo Jarvis), a successful businessman from London returning to his ancestral home in Donegal. His maternal Aunt, who he never met has recently died and left him her house in her will. His plan is to sign the legal papers and prepare the house for sale, pay his respects at her grave, and then return to London. However, on the drive out to the house, he is involved in a head-on collision with local joyriders. Hamish is badly injured, but one of the teenage boys in the other car is killed.
It’s a promising start for an intense character study, but the film never really takes off, and struggles to make the most of its potential. Forced to spend much longer in Ireland than he had planned whilst he convalesces, Hamish begins to learn things about his mother that change his perspective not only of her, but also his own identity. Meanwhile, he forges a strangely intense friendship with the other boy from the crash. And of course, the longer he spends time here, the more he comes into contact with the lives of people who have been affected by the crash.
Cosmo Jarvis is tremendous yet again. His portrayal of a confident, well put together man, being slowly undone by the trauma of the accident, and the growing realisation of the different life and identity he could have had is fascinating. Working with more focused material, this could have been his breakthrough role.
It’s been a few days since I saw ‘It Is In Us All’ and I’m still not entirely sure what Campbell-Hughes is trying to tell us. You can see the ambition, and the film has many interesting ideas, but because it is so committed to ethereal ambiguity and mysterious artfulness it never lands any of them. When everything is vague and left unsaid, it doesn’t make it more meaningful. It just feels hollow.
There’s a raw visual beauty to the film, and a couple of standout scenes, but after the promising start it quickly becomes dreary and oppressive, and the lack of focus makes it feel much longer than its 90-minute running time.