The debut feature film co-written and co-directed by Dutch film-makers Lennert Hillege & Guido van Driel is an uncompromising, realistic, character study of a self-destructive alcoholic; bringing to mind such films as “Leaving Las Vegas“.

Marie, a once successful graphic novel artist, lives in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. Nowadays drunken and bold, she gets into one conflict after another, as her life spirals out of control.

Susanne Wolff is phenomenal as Marie, driving the narrative with a remarkable, fully committed, subtle, yet realistic portrayal of an alcoholic. She puts the viewer in the mind-set of Marie, making her at once sad, unlikeable at times, yet sympathetic, and never less than honest with her performance. The cast throughout is exceptional, with standouts being Dragos Bucur as a pimp and Jan Bijvoet as a fan, the closet to a friend Marie has. Hillege & van Driel depict addiction candidly, and Marie should be obnoxious, but for all her faults, because of what Wolff brings to the character, I found it really hard not to warm to her.

Neon fuelled cinematography magnifies the melancholic feel, with Amsterdam almost a character in itself; bringing to mind on occasion the look and feel of the exteriors of Kubrick‘s “Eyes Wide Shut“. Intensifying this melancholia is the minimalistic avant-garde score that at times melds imperceptibly to become one in the same with the first-rate sound design.

Surprisingly at less than 90 minutes long its depth belies such a short running time, although maybe would have benefited from being 15 to 20 minutes longer to give more room for the characters and story to breath. However, with Marie’s motivations and her back story not being fully explored, and unresolved aspects, the feeling is this may well have been the intention of Hillege and van Driel in reflecting her psyche and the psychological effects of alcohol abuse.

While “Bloody Marie” is not a film for everyone, those who appreciate a gritty, realistic, yet humanistic character study, and European arthouse cinema will find much to admire.

Hillege and van Driel are clearly talented, delivering a very assured first feature that shows great promise for, hopefully, their future collaborations.

Released digitally by Uncork’d Entertainment in the US.

Karl Franks