True Calling review – a government minister goes awol on long night of the soul

This tiny-budget British drama, written and directed by Erik Knudsen, begins intriguingly as the government’s energy minister goes awol a few days before the election. An energy crisis is brewing; his phone is ringing off the hook. But he switches off the lights at his detached house in Wimbledon, gets in the car and drives. From his wealth-and-privilege accent and fashion choice of blue jeans and leather lace-ups, I assumed he was a Tory – but, in fact, he’s a member of the fictional left-leaning Independent party.

This is Josh Joseph, AKA JJ (played by David Smith) and the film is his long night – and day – of the soul. There are a couple of interesting moments as he drives north listening to voicemails, and I enjoyed the camera right up against his face, registering his micro-expressions, the frustration and anxiety as he vents at an aide at the madness of a live debate with his opposite number in the shadow cabinet. (The government’s policy to massively increase wind power is a dead-cert vote loser.)

The film completely unravels when JJ arrives at his destination, the postcard-pretty northern town where he grew up. He’s here to confess undying love to a woman (Eliza Marsland) he knew as a teenager, when he was the lead singer in a Christian rock band. The pair walk in the woods talking earnestly with zero believability. He says he’s not sure if he buys the scientists on global warming after all. I was baffled by the politics: is the film anti-climate change, or is the doubt a symptom of JJ’s breakdown? It ends with him by the river having an audience with an anti-wind turbine activist (Ben Hynes). But here there’s no confusing the meaning of JJ being dunked underwater by this beardy fella who speaks in fishing metaphors.

I have admit to watching a lot of the movie imagining a The Thick of It version, with Malcom Tucker’s running commentary of a wet minister off the leash and the hairdryer bollocking coming his way.

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