A young London mother (Vicky Knight) must pick up the pieces after an acid attack leaves her with severe facial burns. With a young daughter to look after and limited opportunities, she has an unenviable task ahead of her.
Casting Vicky Knight to play Jade was an inspired choice, with never ending instances of actors who are so far removed from the part they’re playing, this is a refreshing change with Knight being someone to uniquely understand the role. One of the lessons the film shows strongly is that, as harrowing and horrifying of an experience you can go through, it doesn’t change who you are and for that reason Jade isn’t the most likeable of characters, she’s young, irresponsible, a neglectful mother and she’s very interested in her best friend’s boyfriend with no remorse. Knight does a brilliant job with the role but it would have been good to see her delve more deeply into it, it only touches the surface of what Jade’s going through and Knight definitely had more to give.
There’s a large percentage of the film following her while she tries to go back to doing what she did before the attack: house parties, clubs and sex. It’s a valid approach to spend time on Jade trying to feel sexually attractive when it’s one of the things that she put a high value on before the attack, but it doesn’t come across as real, gritty or honest and harsh, instead it feels shallow and as though film is spending too much time focused on the less emotionally rich aspects of this story, making its point in a less interesting manner.
When the film does get a chance to focus on more emotional scenes, like the court case or Jade recounting her daughter’s reaction to her physical changes, the choices in direction tend to undercut the feeling; what should be raw, unflinching, heart-breaking scenes are littered with dance music, clichéd metaphors and rarely let the camera stay on a character long enough for the moment to land. There’s also the missed opportunity of not letting Katherine Kelly break out and show what she can do, we get brief glimpses of it and those moments elevate the film, giving a performance that has the grit and tenacity that the rest is missing, her monologue in the final scenes is fantastic and an example of what this film should have strived for more consistently.
What should be a story of rediscovery, adjusting to a new life and handling deep emotional issues, is instead a film that reflects the shallow nature of its lead character. The story is predictable and holding back on its potential for a powerful and intense film, while it may accurately represent the life of an east London woman in her early twenties, who’s immature and selfish, sadly it doesn’t get much further than that.