Palace of Fun: Film review by Jack Cline

This offbeat British film shifts from a black comedy into a much darker suspense thriller as it sends its three central characters into a kind of death spiral around each other. It’s cleverly made on what is clearly a very small budget by brothers Eadward (writer-director), George (actor-writer) and David (producer) Stocks, who give the film a deranged sensibility that keeps it intriguing.

It’s set in Brighton and opens the morning after Finn (Andrew Mullan) met Lily (Phoebe Naughton) in a bar. In her house, Finn runs into Lily’s arch brother Jamie (George Stocks), who invites him out for a day on the family yacht. Clearly jealous, Jamie starts digging into Finn’s background and discovers that he’s not who he says he is, forcing Finn to go along with a rather twisted obsessive friendship. But Lily is actually falling for Finn, and Jamie can’t bear to let them get together. He wants Finn for himself.

The loose, inventive filmmaking approach catches the audience off-balance, increasing the suspense, and stirring in witty references to classic films that bend sexuality, everything from Plein Soleil to Some Like it Hot. On the surface, this is a thriller about concealed identity, but it’s also following a sexual predator chasing a guy who isn’t remotely innocent.

The actors are excellent, particularly Mullan in a tricky role, almost giggly as Finn falls in love with Lily and then more darkly intrigued by his flirtation with Jamie. And the actor offers continual glimpses of the real Finn. Naughton’s Lily never really gets to develop much, but the actress finds some intriguing textures to the character. By comparison, Stocks basically makes Jamie a sneeringly camp villain who loves to make everyone around him squirm. But he’s also hiding who he really is, playing up his emotions with dramatic excess.

The micro-budget production shows in some of the camerawork and editing, which miss key moments and leave some gaping holes in the narrative. But while this shows the filmmakers’ inexperience, it also adds a freaky element to everything that happens, building a sense of dread that we are not heading for a happy ending. But best of all is how the movie introduces us to the Stocks brothers, promising young filmmakers we should keep an eye on.

Palace of Fun is out on DVD/VOD from TLA.

To Top