Pink Wall, award-winning actor Tom Cullen’s directorial debut, is all about relationships gone sour and the role that heavy-handed egotism plays in them. Let this charming yet heart-breaking London Film Festival favourite lure you into a lucid dream of desire, shame and fear as your eyes melt into the cotton candy colours of Jenna and Leon’s more than complicated love story.
What is the reason why we fall in love? Is love the only thing that can scratch away the itching of our inner void? In what way is love connected to sex and desire? Are we designed to love one person only for the rest of our lives? What does the word “Love” even mean? How long before one relationship fades away, how long before we hit the (pink) wall of cruel, egotistical disillusionment? Those are the ghosts that haunt our minds and hearts, just as they haunt the two main characters of Pink Wall, Tom Cullen’s first feature film. Best known for his role as Viscount Gillingham in the beloved TV show Downton Abbey, Cullen has now decided to set himself behind the camera to tell the delicate – but heart-shattering – tale of the epitome of clichéd relationships, unexpectedly managing to pierce our souls with emotion-laden frames.
Pink Wall tells the story of Jenna (Tatiana Maslany) and Leon (Jay Duplass), a couple of young lovers living in contemporary Wales. We intermittently peep into their lives through a six years’ span, which the director presents as a collation of different episodes taking place at different stages of their relationship. And even though we get downsized to impotent onlookers, we almost immediately develop a particular kind of affection towards the characters: they say things we could find ourselves saying; they get into weird social gatherings; they definitely have a hard time trying to pretend they do not care about each other.
Hopping between present, past, memories, and a skilfully tailored combination of different frame ratios, this gently coloured tale faces its audience with the most inconvenient of all truths: how we all crave for intimacy, and how extenuating that very intimacy can be. Cullen’s delicate yet unmerciful touch carefully assembles every element of the film so as to stitch together a warm, dream-like setting for an unsettling nightmare of terrific performances and loud-screamed self-confessions. In the end, what was meant to be the perfect love story reveals itself as a superbly contrived indictment of our petty selfish motivation for feeling tied to someone else: the bare indulgence of our need to recharge our self-esteem by degrading the other’s shortcomings.
Desire, satisfaction, disillusionment, self-deception. These are the Leitmotivs of Cullen’s Pink Wall, a mosaic of hateful reality and lucid dreams that puts us in the uncomfortable position of seeing ourselves from the outside as we go through some defining moments in our lives. Are we ready to find out that we actually take pleasure in defining ourselves according to what we do not want rather than to what would make us feel complete? The bottom line of Cullen’s argument is that we are nothing but (social) time’s fools, wrestling under its yoke in the vain attempt to vaporise ourselves with someone else’s help. Then we give up; pity that what is left standing in front of us is not a heap of almost-scattered ashes. It is a flesh-and-bone human being instead. And we have finally been victorious in our undeclared attempt to make them suffer.