Directed by Tony Hipwell and written by Max Gee, based on the short story by Yasutaka Tsutsui. A dystopian tale of a near future where the government, rather than imprisoning criminals or deporting immigrants, turns them into trees as part of an insidious environmental campaign. Starring: Anton Thompson, Yuriri Naka, Amy Blake, Andrew Dunn, Gemma-Louise Keane and Joanne Mitchell.
So often dystopian films can throw us headfirst into an unrecognisable vision of the world, torn apart by natural disaster, technological revolution, dictatorship or disease but Standing Woman keeps one foot in today. The other is placed firmly somewhere between V for Vendetta and Doctor Who, and it’s a very satisfying combination of styles and themes. It has that politically driven story but also a sense of adventure and touch of humour. There’s a surprisingly emotional vein at its heart, moving between the heinous oppression and loss of a loved one. Its sci-fi and unusual elements are clear but not thrown in your face, it reveals them smoothly but in no rush. However, it does spend a lot of its runtime in its final scene and it would have been great to see the plot develop a tad more before the credits rolled.
The direction from Tony Hipwell, alongside the cinematography from Jenni Suitiala, is a big part of the reason it keeps that sense of the everyday. It’s an extremely clever choice as it capitalises on not needing to alter too much so that more effort can be focused on the effects. It’s always great to see filmmakers not overly relying on technology so the use of physical effects, costume and make-up are a huge bonus here. Hipwell also creates a good balance of leaning into the danger and risk associated with this dystopian world, and holding a stillness to embrace its emotional side.
Anton Thompson was a great choice to lead this story, his presence and charm evoke a typically British feel. He has a natural energy, he doesn’t go too hard with the emotion, it’s nicely convincing and genuinely touching. He also has a great connection and chemistry with Yuriri Naka, they bring an authentic feel which is there from the start, even before they spend much time onscreen together. Again, it’s a case of gauging the right level of emotion, their key scene with drama and heartbreak works so well because they capture the poignance of it but don’t try to dig overly deep as to undermine the lighter overall tone of the film. Joanne Mitchell and Andrew Dunn also make memorable appearances, with Mitchell adding to the sadness of the atmosphere and Dunn to that edge of humour.
Standing Woman is an entertaining and touching blend of drama and sci-fi. Tony Hipwell’s directorial style feels grounded yet flexible, adapting to the story, while Max Gee’s writing feels extremely accessible and surprisingly emotional. Anton Thompson is a stellar lead and he’s supported wonderfully by Yuriri Naka, as well as the entire ensemble. It manages to capture a family friendly adventure feel as well as a politically driven dystopia, it’s sweet and unexpected.