Black Pond (2011)
I didn’t know what to expect from the description of the film, just plunging straight into the black comedy mockumentary Black Pond (2011) that sees the Thompson family who from the beginning we learn have killed a man. It all seems so calm, so very British, no sensationalism as the members of the family recount the events that lead up to the shocking story appear in the papers. It takes a while to work out of this is for real, until you realise they are actors, especially after seeing comedian Simon Amstell and remembering (shamefully) who Chris Langham) is. I start to just let it all unfold. A mix of interview and reconstruction of the events between the Thompson family. When Tom Thompson (Langham in his first role since his time in prison) meets a stranger (Blake (Colin Hurley)) in the local wood walking his dog – Boy. It’s all so very normal as the events unfold, as Blake is invited back to the family home, where we find Sophie Thompson (Amanda Hadingue) who is more than happy to have a visitor, a nice break from the uncomfortable atmosphere between her and Tom which we see get more awkward as the film unfolds.
Knowing already that Blake is to die/be murdered we want to know how, then the dog suddenly dies, the plot thickens throwing a spanner in the already fractured film that moves between each member of the family who recount the events from their perspectives which match up in a patchwork fashion.
The two daughters who live together in London Jess and Katie Thompson (Helen Cripps and Anna O’Grady) more out of circumstance than choice, along with long-time friend Tim Tanaka (Will Sharpe) who also took part in these dark events. There is tension between the three young adults, the girls want to live apart, whilst Tim is blinded by lust for them both. He decides to take up the counsel of an unqualified psychiatrist Eric Sacks (Amstell) who does anything but help him, mocking him and his problems, even leaking his story to another which finds its way into the press. Amstell is essentially playing an extension of himself on-screen, something which most comedians do at the moment, just becoming even more cynical in this role.
There seems throughout a strong need by the family to do what is right, constantly interrupted by their own weaknesses which makes for naturally funny moments in this dark time for the family as they pull together to pay their respects to the dead. They ignore the law of the land, instead follow another law, that of the individuals wishes. It’s all so very odd yet plausible at the same time, with a cast who just go with it. It’s also a brave move for Langham in his return to the screen after a short prison sentence, taking on a role that is almost as dark as his criminal record, walking innocently into a world he knows nothing about with a laid back approach. In terms of story telling, the format of the mock-documentary allows for a bewildering story to appear true, with a cast of actors who for the most part are unknowns making it all the more believable.