Wednesday, May 18, 2022


If there is one thing we get from movies, if we use them as our counselors and therapists, it is getting out of the apartment is always a healthy part of the recovery process. Unfortunately, Cordelia Russell apparently hasn’t watched a lot of films, even though she is an actress. (She certainly hasn’t seen Repulsion.) Nevertheless, an upstairs neighbor tries to reach out for her, but his motives are a big question mark in Adrian Shergold’s Cordelia, which releases Friday in theaters and on-demand.

The withdrawn Russell is still suffering from acute post-traumatic stress, but somehow, she can still perform in a stage production of
King Lear (as her namesake, ironically). Fortunately, she lives with her identical twin Caroline, who handles most of the practical business of life. Then one afternoon, Frank Ryan, the professional cellist renting the flat above her, approaches Russell at a coffee shop.

It turns out he is attracted to Russell, but it is really probably Caroline who he probably saw on the streets. Regardless, he does his best to charm her, even convincing Russell to accompany him on the Metro, which brings back painful memories for her. However, as he continues to court the twin, things start to get weird.

Eventually, Shergold and co-screenwriter Antonia Campbell-Hughes (who also stars as both Russell sisters) try to raise all sorts of is-she-or-isn’t-she and is-he-or-isn’t-he doubts about the main characters. It is a mixed bag in terms of its effectiveness playing minds games, but it is a bit troubling to learn Russell is a survivor of the 7/7 terrorist attack. Using a very real tragedy like 9/11 or 7/7 is a risky proposition that can easily descend into exploitation.
Cordelia is not sleazy in the way it addresses the attack, but it is a bit jarring nonetheless.

On the other hand, Campbell-Hughes digs deep, giving a brutally draining performance as the title Russell. She is unsettling in multiple (perhaps even contradictory) ways. Likewise, as Ryan, Johnny Flynn goes all in, while keeping us guessing. This is a dashed dark two-hander (essentially), but Campbell-Hughes and Flynn definitely hold up their ends.

It is great work on-screen, but it is debatable just how much it all adds up to. At times, it looks like Shergold is straining to be ambiguous and undermine the reliability of characters’ viewpoints. It is either too much or not enough. As a result, it is easier to respect the performances of
Cordelia than recommend them, when it opens Friday (5/20) in theaters (including the Center Cinemas in Jersey).