A dark and gritty British revenge thriller from first-time director Gary Young, Two Graves will keep you on the edge of your seat and wondering who will survive.
We don’t see enough of Cathy Tyson. I remember her well from Mona Lisa Smile and The Serpent and the Rainbow; but it seems to have been mostly TV roles since then. Two Graves makes up for that: this is a film which will remind audiences what she can deliver.
Funny timing: I just finished watching The Victim, the BBC’s series about a woman and her hatred towards the man she believes killed her son… and in Two Graves, Tyson’s character Margaret holds a young man captive because she believes he had killed her son. That’s where the similarity ends: where The Victim was a courtroom drama and mystery about parenthood, justice, and closure, Two Graves is a gritty British revenge thriller set in a world of drug addicts, gangsters and prostitutes.
Tyson’s Margaret teams up with Zoe (Katie Jarvis), a recovering junkie, to capture Finnbar (Neal Ward), and torment a confession out of him that he killed Margaret’s son some weeks earlier. Margaret is medically and military trained, and Zoe is happy with guns and knives; so these are two women to keep on your side if you can. But no-one stays anyone’s friend for long in this film, short though it is. As well as these three, the cast of characters includes a gangster boss, played ruthlessly by David Hayman; and a security guard played by David Johns (as sympathetically as his Daniel Blake). These key roles are very well portrayed, with anguish, anger, and sympathetic kindness all believable; down-to-Earth personalities in an extreme situation. Some of the lesser parts are poorly acted in comparison (I’m thinking particularly of Finn himself, the other security guard and the detectives); and this range in performance quality does reveal the film for what it is: a moderate budget indie film from a first-time director.
Gary Young may not have directed a feature before, but his 2009 revenge thriller Harry Brown showed us how well he could write. Unfortunately, although the plot of Two Graves is terrific, some of the dialogue is a little patchy. Cathy Tyson can carry any line, but unbelievable lines from the mouth of a poorer actor just sound unbelievable. On the plus side, there are enough decent actors here and enough tension that the odd jarring line doesn’t get in the way for long. I’d not come across Jarvis before, but the almost-Lisbeth-Salander manner seemed to come naturally to her, and she overcomes the dialogue issues just fine, with a little hope to give her character breadth.
There is one other thing that lets down Two Graves: for most of the film, the production feels cheap (and I’ve come across lower budget films which looked and felt less cheap); not much different from a TV drama such as The Bill. I don’t know what can be done about that when the main set is an abandoned warehouse, but with such a lot going for the film, it’s a shame if it looks a little amateur at times.
The major plus though – apart from the cast I’ve highlighted – is the plot. Two Graves is a gangland tragedy with film noir style. There are many contrasting agendas to its small cast and some twists and turns that you don’t always see coming. It’s a violent film for sure, with plenty of language to match; but there isn’t anything gratuitous about it. It belongs in that empty set, with echoes and shadows that make you wonder who’s around the corner: the people there are just as empty.
Come for the grit, and stay for the story. Just don’t be too demanding and you’ll enjoy Two Graves.