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‘CORDELIA’ Review – A chillingly traumatic experience buoyed by powerhouse performances

SYNOPSIS: Cordelia is a troubled, damaged soul who is only just recovering after some unnamed trauma; she is an actor rehearsing a play and comes to stay in a creepy London mansion flat occupied by her twin sister Caroline and Caroline’s boyfriend Matt. When they leave her alone there Cordelia strikes up a friendship with Frank the charming, but strange and unreliable young man they can hear practicing his cello in the upstairs flat – a relationship which quickly becomes very disturbing.

A year or so ago when the first Cordelia poster was released, many mistook it for a period romp in which the woman is dominating the man; or, well, Johnny Flynn.

How wrong we all were as Cordelia is in fact a modern thriller that worms its way under your skin and, whilst it isn’t particularly sexy, it broods with something shockingly unique.

Directed by Adrian Shergold, Cordelia revolves around the titular character: A shy young woman living in London with her twin sister Caroline. A traumatic experience has left Cordelia struggling mentally, practically isolated from the rest of the city. However, things start to unravel when she is left alone for the first time and is overcome with paranoia. It doesn’t help that alluring neighbour Frank has charmed his way into the woman’s life. As the pair meet, Cordelia is plunged into mental uncertainty.

Lead actress (and co-writer) Antonia Campbell-Hughes‘ performance is sublime. She plays the timid lead character beguilingly well – maintaining a constant sense of uncertainty underneath the surface. She grapples with her painful past and this new stranger and is so good, in fact, that after this writer Googled who was playing her sister, I was dumbfounded to discover that it was actually Campbell-Hughes in a dual role. She’s that good.

The narrative itself is thick with a suffocating atmosphere. From the very beginning, there is an intense thickness that resides not just in Cordelia’s home but also throughout London. It practically stalks Cordelia in this bleak, brown, and blue cinematography and the serpentine manner in which it plays out is positively enticing, intensifying the terror.

Notwithstanding the aforementioned virtues, unfortunately, the film comes a bit of a cropper once it reaches the final third which is a shame as there is so much tantalizing promise, especially as Cordelia and Frank collide in the flat together. Campbell-Hughes and Flynn are so great together, practically dueling to be the creepiest character in the frame. As the viewers try to comprehend the dynamics between the pair, the film builds and builds to what could have been a satisfactory conclusion but ends up falling somewhat short in the end.

The outcome is much more of an anticlimax than we’re lead to believe with the ending leaving you somewhat amiss, yearning for something more as the early parts of the film played out so perfectly.

Nevertheless, the film certainly provides plenty of food for thought, leaving you to linger on what you just saw, especially thanks to Campbell-Hughes majestic lead performance(s) who we can’t wait to see working her magic in whatever projects next come her way.

VERDICT:

Cordelia releases in theaters and On Demand on May 20, 2022 through Screen Media

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