Sodium Party (2013)

Sodium Party is the feature debut of Irish filmmaker Micahel McCudden. Written after the birth of his daughter with a view to sharing his unique vision of the world with her, it marries a bleak outlook with eldritch melodrama to create a captivating non-linear thriller. It shot in 2010, so may not be entirely appropriate for a three year old but fans of asynchronous mystery cinema are in for a treat.

Following Claire through a harrowing childhood to university where she meets Danny, a frequently intoxicated photographer who exposes her to real life through a cocktail of love and drugs. Their relationship is tested when ghosts of Claire’s tumultuous past manifest through super 8 video footage causing her world to unravel. Sodium Party has a lot in common with the films of David Lynch (particular moments are especially reminiscent of Lynch’s Mulholland Drive), as well as taking narrative cues from Jacob’s Ladder and Memento. More so than Lynch or Adrian Lyne, Sodium Party exudes the kitchen sink surreality of a Philip Ridley film. Rich, dark and surreptitiously effecting.

Deliberately paced with a carefully constructed rhythm that is dexterously cut together, clearly they knew exactly how they wanted the end product was to look and feel. At points, it may seem to dawdle occasionally, but these moments pay dividends in the climax. As the film courses on, traditional narrative is disassembled as the ground begins to shift under Claire’s feet. Shifting also for the viewer, it creates an uneasy but satisfying viewing experience. Dealing in overlapping themes such the cyclical nature of life, cause and effect and, particularly, the loss of innocence, Sodium Party wants you to consider the moment where innocence is truly lost. Certainly, Claire’s life is seemingly a succession of purity shattering moments.

While Sodium Party is skilfully shot with a deft eye for lighting and framing – the production values are particularly high for such a low budget venture – the digital sheen renders it just shy of cinematic enough to bear the weight of its content. McCudden uses a rich colour palette and a wonderful set of locations to tie the fantastical narrative to a world that is recognisable but still remains vivid and preternatural. In a film awash with strong but varied performances, Slaine Kelly is particularly brilliant in her off-kilter, something’s-not-quite-right-with-her performance. Conveying a naivete combined with something altogether darker, Kelly’s Claire is the glue that keeps this film so tightly bound. James Corscadden imbues his character with such seedy charisma, Danny feels almost like a cult leader – with a congregation of one.

New filmmakers equipped with fully formed ideas and fresh insights are at a premium in the current climate of found footage and affordable DSLRs, and McCudden definitely fulfills that criteria. Unafraid of being challenging, Sodium Party is an accomplished first feature teeming with postmodernist creativity and subjectivist exploration. It may invite comparison to other films with similar design and narrative sensibilities, but it still manages to be uniquely tragic and emotionally arresting.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

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