CORDELIA (2019) Reviews and overview

 

Cordelia is a 2019 British horror feature film about two very different twin sisters that live together in their deceased father’s flat.

Directed by Adrian Shergold from a screenplay co-written with Antonia Campbell-Hughes (Storage 24) who also stars in a dual role, the Studio POW production also stars Johnny Flynn and Catherine McCormack. Michael Gambon (The Omen, 2006; Sleepy Hollow; The Beast Must Die) has a cameo role.

Plot:

Cordelia (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) lives with her twin sister Caroline (Campbell-Hughes) in their central London basement flat. Years earlier, Cordelia had been caught up in a traumatic event that left her guilt-ridden and fragile.

Her gradual recovery and search for independence are jeopardised when her sister leaves for a weekend away. For the first time, she meets her mysterious neighbour Frank (Johnny Flynn), a cellist whose music has intrigued her. As their relationship develops, Cordelia becomes convinced she is being stalked. Increasingly anxious and unsure of Frank’s motives, Cordelia begins to unravel…

Reviews:

” …owes much to Polanski’s Repulsion as Cordelia starts to unravel not helped by a series of anonymous phone calls. But after setting itself up as a human drama it’s around halfway through that the film that there is an increasing air of uneasiness to put the audience on edge underlined by a sustained shimmering wavering single violin note on the score as reality starts to waver for Cordelia.” Any Good Films?

“As the film wears on, it’s not just Cordelia that unravels. The narrative loses focus, and the joy of the cat-and-mouse dynamic of the first half of the film loses its edge. The result is frustrating, especially when the pacing slips. Still, there’s something to this strange, unnerving drama that sticks with you, even haunts you.” The Arts Desk

“Posing far more questions than it answers and chasing off down several paths to do with guilt, grief and cruelty, and well as madness, the ‘why’ is the biggest question for Cordelia the character, and the film. Although, interestingly at times, Cordelia almost feels like a set-up, a ‘prequel’ to a series of films about crazy women. However, there is nothing crazy about the direction by Adrian Shergold, which is strong, experienced and clear.” BritFlicks

“There will be some that find the dialogue stilted and blunt, as well as the occasional blank acted scenes but if you look at this playing into the psychological side of this thriller, you begin to see how these characters, really behave […] Cordelia definitely is an unusual film with familiar genre plot points. If the film had expanded on a few of its ideas, maybe we would have all the answers but that’s not what this film is about.” Filmhounds

” ….Cordelia is a fascinating film and one mounted with real flair, both in its unique sense of design and the nimble way it teases out a refreshingly inscrutable dynamic between its two leads. It might not tie up all of its loose ends neatly in the final act and it’s possible to become a little weary of its opaque storytelling but, when the credits roll, it certainly leaves you with plenty to talk about.” Flickering Myth

“Shergold and Campbell-Hughes orchestrate some very disquieting dream sequences and scenes in which ostensible reality bleeds into a hallucinatory dream state. And they have some excellent moments down in the London Underground, whose potential for horror is often mishandled by film-makers but works well here, especially at the very beginning […] Perhaps this film doesn’t entirely work all the way through, but it is a shard of malevolence that jabs into your skin.” The Guardian

“Director Adrian Shergold opts to keep almost every aspect of Cordelia shrouded in mystique. We don’t even get a clear confirmation of what time period the events are occurring in. There’s an obvious modern setting, but one that is bathed with timeless elements […] Cordelia is a film steeped in mystery and to say too much would spoil the experience. Go in cold and prepare to be kept guessing the film’s true motives right until its dramatic conclusion.” The Hollywood News

“Cordelia is an interesting and entertaining British film that subverts audience expectations and plays with character and genre tropes. It takes a little-examined piece of British history and uses it as a jumping-off point to weave a complex tale about trauma, paranoia, loneliness and gender dynamics. It is a great London-set film, that uses both the city and the flat in a way which is integral to the protagonist’s character and story.” Jump Cut Online

“Campbell-Hughes and Flynn are both excellent (her twice), and the flat – at once enviably situated and haunted by vermin, ghosts, pesky neighbours and formless terror (the other flats in the building are dilapidated) – a suitably unsettling cage for Cordelia.  Some of it feels too on-the-nose (the 7/7 angle doesn’t quite gel) but it’s got a pleasing modern Britain vibe which resonates with a few other recent films (The Beast, Daphne, Kaleidoscope) about the traps we’re locking ourselves into.” The Kim Newman Web Site

“The first hour is tightly paced, with a cat-and-mouse game beautifully played between Campbell-Hughes and Flynn. Aside from an inexplicable Michael Gambon cameo, there is much to admire – it is gorgeously styled and tense with exhilarating shifting power dynamics. But the film runs out of ideas with 30 minutes on the clock. Though the performances remain engaging, the established plot points are repeated ad nauseam in the final act.” Little White Lies

“Unfortunately, Shergold and Campbell-Hughes’ writing is found wanting, peppered with cringy, on-the-nose storytelling and eye-rolling dialogue (“We’re the same, you and I,” a character sneers at one point). After setting up an intriguing cat-and-mouse game between Frank and Cordelia, the film doesn’t know what to do with this dynamic, and it descends into the sort of cliches you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever witnessed a TV soap opera play out a stalker plot-line.” The Movie Waffler

“There’s an old school cinematic feel in certain scenes throughout Cordelia, the apartment is deliberately designed to condition the viewer into further complexity of her surrounds. City streets are also filmed in an unorthodox manner keeping things interesting […] Weird and twisted, primarily a showcase for Antonia Campbell-Hughes and one for admirers of bizarre celluloid.” The People’s Movies

“A deeply creepy atmosphere and a fascinating protagonist are the selling points of this idiosyncratic psychological horror. Henry James and Roman Polanski are the touchstones as we spend an eerie, alienating weekend in the London basement flat and dark fractured mind of Cordelia…” The Sunday Times

Release:

Cordelia was released on On-Demand in the UK on November 30th 2020.

Cast and characters:

Antonia Campbell-Hughes … Cordelia / Caroline
Michael Gambon … Moses
Johnny Flynn … Frank
Catherine McCormack … Kate
Alun Armstrong … Roger
Joel Fry … Matt
Ivy Wong … Young Girl on Train
Hetty Baynes … Mrs Grotowski
Kamil Lemieszewski … Knight
Tim Stern … Mr Grotowski
Anna Danshina … Natasha
Raj Awasti … Taxi driver
Jill Buchanan … Lady on the Train
Richard Curtis … Tube Passenger
Tom Meredith … Young Undertaker
Drew Edwards … Cab Driver
Simon Strutt … Stage Hand / Crew
Jamie Moore … Director (as Jamie Seymour)
Nathan Carter-Dale … Actor

Filming locations:

Principal filming took place between 16th April 2018 and 18th May 2018 in the following locations:

Aldwych tube station, London, England
The Fens, England
Museum Chambers, Bloomsbury, London
Twickenham Film Studios, St Margarets, Twickenham, Middlesex, England
West Kensington Mansions, West Kensington, London, England

Fun Facts:

Antonia Campbell-Hughes’ first screen role was as an uncredited zombie in Shaun of the Dead (2004).

Cordelia is the youngest daughter in Shakespeare’s play King Lear.

Trailer:

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