When mother, daughter, and lodger end up in the same bed, the absurdity of the 13-year-old accomplice is a comic, if unnerving sight.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

If black comedy is rooted in scorn for conventional rules of behavior, then Phillip Goodhew's "Intimate Relations" will surely stand tall in the genre. Watching people indulge themselves in full denial of the consequences of their twisted behavior can be a very funny sight, but eventually, their outrageous actions will plunge them into the dark side of comedy. Where else, we later ask ourselves, could it have gone?

Mrs. Beasley (Julie Walters) is the perfect English working- class wife and mother. She has raised two married daughters, keeps a neat house for her husband and 13-year-old daughter Joyce, and works for a laundry company, where she is the dominant presence in how to do things right. Wherever she is, Mrs. Beasley has the tea tray at the ready for the comfort of guests and family. Whenever things go wrong, "Tea, dear?" is her remedy.

Within moments we learn that Mr. Beasley (Matthew Walker) is a one-legged drunk who treads a worn path between his small, dark room and the local pub. He is removed from the family traffic. Against his wishes, Mrs. Beasley decides to take in a lodger, a young man named Harold Guppy (Rupert Graves), who is himself the long-lost, very black sheep of a family that wishes he had not returned.

Mrs. Beasley, a middle-aged woman with a whole head of permanent sausage curls, a primly desperate housewife who can't bear to touch her husband, jumps into Mr. Guppy's arms with unexpected abandon. When mother, daughter, and lodger end up in the same bed, the absurdity of the 13-year-old accomplice is a comic, if unnerving sight.

With remarkable skill, writer/director Phillip Goodhew reveals Mrs. Beasley's true nature. She's a monster in proper clothing, a serpent babbling, "I think it's about time we put your father's tea on--lovely flower, dear," at the very moment she is destroying whoever still breathes around her. She is manipulating the marionettes in her life with the power of a true puppet master.

So good is Julie Walters in portraying denial that her character feels absolutely entitled to lecture a troubled young worker at the laundry company about responsibility and moral standards. Her duality is completely convincing. Ms. Walters' timing is of the flawless kind that leaves you chuckling while the grostesqueness of her being settles over you with delayed effect.

Ms. Walters and Rupert Graves chug through the silliness with wildly high spirits. The subtleties of their performances are wonderfully observed by Mr. Goodhew. Mr. Graves is marvelous as the black sheep who meets his match; Laura Sadler terrific as the young daughter who jumps gleefully into the cauldron of denial that boils in her house.

This is yet another "Only From Britain" movie in that eccentric specialty of theirs that celebrates the zany combination of laughter and the outrageous. In wicked collusion, the director and actors of this movie hit all the high notes of absurdist comedy.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 496
Studio : Fox Searchlight
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h45m

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