Director: Jamie Thraves
Cast: Paddy Considine, Julia Stiles, Caroline Dhavernas, James Gilbert
Plot: A stalker (Considine) finds the tables turned on him, when the woman he watches at night (Stiles) turns out to be a very dangerous person to be around.
The Cry of the Owl has a good premise, but sadly, the director and writer, Jamie Thraves, has no idea where to go from there and this movie turns into an appalling mess.
Right from the start, it becomes clear that The Cry of the Owl is going to be a dreary mess, because the lead character is totally frustrating to spend time with. Having your lead as a creepy stalker is an interesting idea (this movie kind of ruined my upcoming screenplay, Stalker Saturday!), but Thraves doesn’t try to make him likeable. We are introduced to Considine spying on Julia Stiles’ character and then we cut away to his life. I wanted to like the bloke, but he doesn’t have enough qualities to make him a good narrator to spend time with. Maybe if we built up his character, got invested with him and then learned he was a peeping tom on the side, we could accidentally end up liking the character before we realised he was a bit of a creep. However, sadly we don’t and therefore we are doomed to spend a very slow movie with this depressed, miserable guy. Considine isn’t a bad actor, but he doesn’t really have a chance in this bad character.
The same goes for a lot of the other actors. Julia Stiles deserves so much better than her turn as the ‘victim or puppeteer?’ figure. This is a shame, because most of the movie revolves around figuring out who this woman is, so when she slowly becomes even more annoying than Considine’s stalker, then we end up hating the slow-burning mystery. Caroline Dhavernas probably gives the best performance of everyone, but even she is given a laughably unpredictable character. She coasts by on her natural charm, but when she is asked to do stupid things, calling her ex in the middle of the night just to hang up on him, you end up never taking the character seriously (Dhavernas has yet to top her fascinating depiction of Zoe Zermatten, in my books). We end up with a movie with a vaguely interesting concept with some actors willing to have a crack at the script, but an awful director and writer steering the ship, crashing into every obstacle along the way.
The pacing is abysmally slow. Thraves plays it dark and moody, but when you don’t care for any of the characters, you don’t care about the breakdown of the two leads. There is a vague form of mystery, but Thraves doesn’t invite us to join in. We are given tunnel vision into the story, only seeing the minimal amount, so we have no way of throwing a fun guess at what is going on into the mix. We are just strapped in for the ride and go through the motions, the director trying and failing to make us care what is going on. There is an interesting twist, but for some reason, Thraves doesn’t properly stop the story and explain it. If the ending was worth the wait, I might be able to turn around and recommend it just for the conclusion. However, just as the final surprise is thrown into the mix, the story continues to go down its infuriatingly slow approach and doesn’t bothering opening up any motivation. The movie quickly ends, wraps itself up and then cuts to credits. We are perplexed, wondering what the hell just happened. Then again, we aren’t bothered enough to go questioning what we just saw. You simply go onto the next, hopefully better, film.
Final Verdict: Good story, bad story-telling. Great actors, lousy characters. The Cry of the Owl looks good on paper, but fails miserably throughout its running time.