Jackie spends her nights in front of a wall of screens delivering images taken by CCTV cameras trained on a rough, rundown Glasgow neighbourhood. As in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), we participate in the voyeuristic pleasure of observing others’ lives, as intimate stories emerge: the man who walks his ailing bulldog and the office night cleaner’s changing moods. But Jackie’s passive observation becomes active surveillance when she spies someone from her past.

An intense, intriguing thriller that keeps its secrets till the very end, Red Road is the much garlanded debut feature of Andrea Arnold. In it, she develops techniques used to great effect in her short film Wasp (2003), directing her camera at seemingly incidental details and forcing us to look at them anew. The film’s title refers to the monstrous tower blocks, now demolished, which dominate the area and became synonymous with crime and anti-social behaviour.

Red Road is distinctly British but a complete antidote to the genteel period drama that is our stock in trade. Though the setting is bleak and squalid, I love the fact the film never revels in or exploits it, just uses it as the backdrop for what is, ultimately, a tale of hope and redemption.

Josephine Botting
Curator