Orchid Moon, directed, written and produced by Lewis William Robinson, is a moody, film noir-influenced thriller that is both authentic and original, particularly in its combination visual style and score. The film follows Harry Bradshaw (Jake Waring), struck by close relational tragedy, as he navigates his way through his mounting grief, guilt and regret. The dark, rainy and shadowy world of the film encloses around him as he searches for innocence and uncovers more of the truth about his partner, Clementine (Nicole Evans). Orchid Moon, through technical limitations, communicates a distinctive voice and vision—even if the execution isn’t always perfect.
What is most impressive about Orchid Moon is its world creation, which combines realistic settings—cafes, pubs, flats—with a unique and expressive visual style. Black-and-white cinematography, captured by Matt Kerins, is used to great effect; the film has an atmosphere of paranoia and uncertainty, and the framing often makes an interesting use of angles and faces. The visual aspects find their foundation in Harry’s traumatic situation, they are an outgrowth of his psychological state, and in this regard the film succeeds in creating feelings of instability, fear and confusion. In this aspect, the style of the film is akin to Carol Reed’s The Third Man as it presses deeper into the turmoil of its central protagonist.
The film’s score, composed by Tom Althorpe, is simply sublime. Indeed, some of the best sequences in the film are when there is little to no dialogue, as the slow motion camera and piano tune are able to overtake and heighten the emotion on screen. Moments between Harry and Clementine, depicting memories and chance meetings, are some of the film’s most affecting scenes and these are driven by the instrumentation. The score never feels rushed, at times leaving sizable spaces in between notes, and builds in everyday objects, dripping taps and ticking clocks, to great effect.
On the flipside, the written dialogue can feel stilted, and elements of the editing and sound recording lack high-level technical quality. The conversations between characters don’t always appear natural and flowing, some of the interactions suffer from a feeling of line-reading rather than a dynamic back-and-forth. The sound recording can be crackly and muffled, meaning certain lines can be lost on first viewing. For the most part, this isn’t a fatal problem but it does hinder the immersion and atmosphere of the film. The editing, though generally solid, can also feel disjointed at times, and again exposes some of the scaffolding—or construction—of the film.
This being said, the good of Orchid Moon far outweighs the bad. Its originality is commendable and the film succeeds where a lot of films fail: it creates a distinctive environment, instantly alluring, within which an intriguing and heartfelt story unfolds. The lead performances from Waring and Evans are accomplished in their use of facial expressions and body language, and there is an unnerving dimension to both their relationship and the world around them. The film does an effective job of depicting the contrast between the repetitive bustle of local life and the psychological displacement of Harry. Orchid Moon is cavernous in its construction and explorative at its heart.