Review: Not the Devil

Written and directed by Siobhan Schwartzberg; on a council estate in East London in the early 90s, Andrew is exploring his identity and is in search of guidance, he has become obsessed with his neighbour Jo. One day Andrew decides to follow Jo, determined to be the centre of her attention one way or another. Starring: Jamie Rose, Victoria Elizabeth and Ali Ahmad.

The film quickly establishes an intimate atmosphere, it’s quiet and close which is aided by the choice to film with a more limited ratio, restricting itself to the very centre of the film, no extraneous detail or landscape to distract from the story at hand. The effect of that is Not the Devil feels more real and raw yet vulnerable, as well as immediately mirroring the period it’s trying to emulate, giving off a very successfully 90s atmosphere. The story itself focuses on curiosity, experimentation and self-discovery; for these few moments that we follow Andrew (Rose), it’s a window into a very personal expression. That expression comes without outside influence or peering, judgemental eyes, there’s a clear, unpolluted aim and perspective; the writing and direction have allowed for the story to avoid any loud, obnoxious intrusion and to just quietly and gracefully unfold.

The choices in writing, direction, editing and the overall atmosphere of the film, extend the youth of our lead to the entire experience, it’s not just the character of Andrew, that raw aesthetic permeates the entirety of Not the Devil. It gives almost a feel of inexperience but put forward in a intentional manner, it doesn’t feel weighed down by the heft of the issues taking place but explores them in a curious, light and almost straightforward manner. As the story shifts from Andrew to his burgeoning friendship with Jo (Elizabeth), the film steers into more possibility, tension and opportunity, yet the film does not immediately try to exploit that change to add in excessive dialogue or drama, it only momentarily strays from the quiet, stillness it already held and instead instils kindness and empathy into the mixture.

The film has a positive message of understanding and identity, it has been created in such a way which is sensitive and calm which is interesting to watch. It does take place within a fairly limited instance and does not move far, at quite a slow pace but manages to do so with a deliberate manner. Not the Devil gives a personal, intimate view into a vulnerable moment, that’s raw yet gentle.

Verdict: 7.5/10

You can find out more about Not the Devil here

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