Impressively made for just £65,000, the debut film from the Jones collective is a rather rare gem: a heartfelt, truly emotive film that never feels overwrought or overly saccharine. Focusing on two characters, Melanie – a young German woman – and Ray – a man returning to the town of his childhood – the film’s quality, particularly in terms of cinematography belies the film’s humble finances and presents its audience with two characters who are not only thoroughly engaging, but entirely convincing.
Melanie (Nora Tschirner) wakes at a party; she is unsure of her fiancé’s whereabouts, but is unperturbed by this, as seemingly her fiancé’s abandonment of her is a regular occurrence. She is not really sure as to where she is, and this sense of dislocation is emblematic of Melanie’s feelings in the seaside town she has now taken residence in at her fiancé’s behest. Melanie, jobless, wanders the streets of the town aimlessly with no real sense of belonging. Melanie’s fiancé is lacking in emotion and indeed, is lacking physically from the film. We only ever hear his disembodied voice in the numerous phone calls he makes to Melanie, phone calls that often provide instructions for her to look after his niece. It is in the characterisation of this partner that the film, if not so well written and convincingly performed, could have faltered. Melanie is clearly an intelligent woman, and her relationship with this distant artist does at times stretch credibility.
In a similar state of aimlessness, Ray (Rob Knighton) arrives back in town on the pretence of paying his respects to his deceased brother. In reality, whilst he does intend to visit his brother’s family, he is also there to carry out the task of locating an individual specified to him by his employer. He meets Melanie in a café, providing the twenty pence that she is missing for her coffee. The pair, united in their sense of isolation, spend the day together getting to know one another, connecting emotionally as they visit Ray’s family and walk around the haunts of his childhood.
For the film to succeed we have to believe in the connection between Melanie and Ray: thanks to Knighton and Tschirner, we do. They are both wonderful, their emotions demonstrated in a subtle and totally affective manner. Their witty interactions, along with the physicality that they both bring to the role help us to appreciate how these two lost souls are able to understand and aid one another.
Thematically, Everyone’s Going to Die is reminiscent of Lost in Translation: two misplaced people connecting in a specific moment, but Everyone’s Going to Die is so much more than a re-tread of Coppola’s film. Tonally, it is far darker. Yes, it has moments of great pathos, but these moments are imbued with a cynicism, a world weariness that hints at both characters’ experiences. It is also more heartfelt. Melanie and Ray are not merely suffering from a crisis of ennui like Lost in Translation’s Bob and Charlotte; they are compelled to deal with far more serious and tangible issues.
The location, a coastal town, is notable and well-selected. Melanie, geographically separated from her home country, has her isolation further emphasised by the imposing sea. For Ray, the sea represents a moment in his childhood that has amplified into the current state of his life. Every part of this film is wonderfully crafted, and it is clear that the directors have cultivated this film carefully.
A remarkable debut, it is with great interest that we await the next effort from the directorial collective.