Ruth Wilson puts in a riveting performance in Venice Film Festival Horizons entry True Things, an impressive follow up to director Harry Wootliff’s debut Only You. Wilson and Jude Law are also among the producers for this intense story, based on the novel True Things About Me by Deborah Kay Davies.
Like Only You, True Things is a portrait of an all-consuming relationship, but this one’s different. Kate (Wilson) hates her job in a benefits office in a coastal town, and is flattered when a claimant (Tom Burke) flirts with her. He’s just out of prison, but that doesn’t bother her: in fact, it may excite her. The pair embark on a passionate liaison, but “Blond” — as he’s named on Kate’s phone — is unpredictable and unreliable. One minute he’s sweeping her off her feet and taking her to wild parties; the next he’s disappeared with her car. Along with Kate, we’re left to guess his real intentions — if he even knows them himself.
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Shot in an intimate style by DoP Ashley Connor (The Miseducation Of Cameron Post), True Things stays close to Kate and her POV, inviting us to feel her emotions and uncertainty, even if she rarely articulates them. This method also requires an exceptional actor like Wilson. Whether she reminds you of a specific friend, or of yourself, her Kate feels utterly authentic. A mixture of shy and impetuous, she half-mutters comments that are sometimes funny, sometimes clumsy, always real. She’s an imaginative, complex woman in her 30s who’s being pressured to settle down and have kids by friends like Alison (Hayley Squires), but whose internal spirit is looking for something else.
Initially, it’s hard to know if Blond is the answer, which makes True Things all the more intriguing. Burke isn’t an obvious choice for the role, but that just adds to the ambiguity. All gruff voice and bad peroxide job, he’s hardly a traditional charmer. Is Kate drawn to him because he’s the most interesting option that presents itself in Ramsgate? Is she in love with the counter culture he represents? Is this a toxic relationship, in which she’s being gaslit?
All these questions maintain the intrigue, but True Things is ultimately about Kate’s internal world and her life choices. While the film’s gritty seaside setting recalls films from Jellyfish to Wish You Were Here, Wootliff puts her unique stamp on the story. It’s an absorbing, character-driven film that explores female sensuality and longing in all its complexity — and whatever your gender or preferences, its vexing central relationship may well ring a bell.