Review: Polar

From writer, director, producer, DP and editor Dominic Jackson – Robin (Drew Horner) might smoke too much weed and drink too much beer, but he is a creative and charming guy. For some reason he fails at everything; girls, friendship, work. After some time alone he gets back in touch with best friend Steve (Rotimi Pearce) who attempts to help him with work and love. Steve gets him back on track – but is it the right track for Robin? Also starring: Grace Parry, Libby Walker, Bradley Taylor and Jessica Carroll.

Polar presents itself in a way that’s very casual, down to earth but at the same time, it’s clear that there’s more issues at play under the surface with a little bit of grit and a big dose of reality. Robin is not the most complicated of guys but he struggles intensely with the universal challenge of ‘getting your shit together’, there’s a good guy in there, he’s just hidden under layers of weed, booze, insecurities, anxieties and a large amount of acting like an asshole. He repeatedly struggles with trying to flirt, although partially this is because he’s frequently off his face, and the desperation to make that connection with another person is palpable. It’s an interesting struggle of deciding whether you like him, hate him, feel sorry for him or a combination of all three.

The film was made for £100 with a two-man crew so a lot hung on the shoulders of Drew Horner as Polar’s lead, and he doesn’t disappoint, Robin feels utterly real, like you could walk into a London pub and easily find a guy just like him. At times he isn’t the most sympathetic of characters but it says a lot to Horner’s performance that you still keep waiting and wanting him to turn things around, that he has the capacity but can’t quite get there. The lad culture vibe is strong with this one, Horner and Pearce are the classic childhood mates who’ve grown up together but their personal growth hasn’t always gone at the same speed. There are fractions of moments that show Pearce’s Steve isn’t the best influence on Robin, though he tries to push him in the right direction, he has too much going on in his own life to really help him get where he needs to go. It’s a typical example of how in our lowest moments, you desperately need those people who can really pull you through, and Robin doesn’t have that, so he continually spirals down into rock bottom.

Jackson’s directorial style is impressive given the little they had to work with, it really feeds into the drunk and stoned moments for Robin, to bring you right into the action which isn’t always comfortable but that’s the point. It keeps quite close to its characters throughout but it does still take a slight step back every now and again to give more variety to the shots. The writing feels very much the mumblecore type that they’re going for, it’s not overly structured, it’s very casual and realistic.

There are a few weaknesses here and there, moments that feel a little too down to earth and needed to move along a bit quicker, or a scene with his drug dealer which comes across slightly out of place or overly strange sat against the harsher reality tone that’s been held throughout. It also would have been more satisfying to have the film’s climax take place slightly earlier to get a more tasty redemption or progress to Robin’s personal story, however it does reflect the film as a whole being more about his journey to get to that point.

You’ll find no glitz or glamour here, just the story of one man struggling to deal with day to day life, lying to himself as much as he is to anyone else and relying on drugs and drink to help him fight against his anxiety. It’s a harsh reality that’s well captured here and Horner’s portrayal of Robin feels as though it could have easily been plucked from real life.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

Polar is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video now!

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