Bonobo (2014) – By Kirsten Walsh

A film with a rather uncomfortable subject matter, “Bonobo” really cuts to the quick of the human species. “A happily married young couple must carefully evaluate their relationship and trust in one another, plus own moral standing when a potentially seedy yet highly financial offer is presented to them in a time of recession.” (“Bonobo” Press Release) Set in the countryside in England with excellent cinematography, the film follows the romantic but not economically sound Alec and Sarah. Alec, played by Christopher Hatherall, plays an optimistic husband who is working odd jobs and playing father and spouse while his wife, played by Freya Berry, lives her settled in housewife living. Similar to films like “The Box” (2009), a situation presents itself to Sarah that seems too good to be true- she serves as an escort for one night, and her financial worries would be over. As the film progresses, Sarah tears herself apart trying to figure out what to do- take the option and sell herself and her dignity, or ignore it and maintain her family and herself, but perhaps not her home. Her choices lead her to mental anguish and into arguments with Alec, and the tension builds between family, lovers, and self.

Initially, the film carries a lighthearted feel as we get to know the two leads. However, as we move along in the story, the film takes a harsh turn, turning it almost into a psychological thriller of sorts. The ominous sound cues, the tense music underplaying employer questions such as “Are you tight?” The film becomes visceral, but not just in the dialogue. Also in the visual imagery, the color schematics, the demeanor of the characters. As Sarah prepares for her date, she becomes more sullen but committed, but it isn’t until she sees the money in her account that the audience is completely sure that she will actually go through with it. Once Sarah departs for the date, there is a horrid shift in the behavior of the married couple as the levels of trust are shattered. The display of the animosity for each other is played very well and leaves the audience feeling very uneasy.

The film was shot beautifully, with extremely beautiful locations and well lit designs. Of course, this film is an ideal showcase for the Red Epic, on which the film was shot. The production design is simplistic and realistic, which adds the believability to the film. The back and forth between the two characters reminds me of a stage play, with direct, simple banter that is straight to the point. Writer/ Director Mark Withers showcases his finely tuned talent. As a filmmaker, he has made over 300 films, including “Bonobo”, and it shows. While I don’t personally relate to the film’s moral issue, I found it intriguing, watching the couple fall into despair. A voyeur into misery and destruction, I felt somewhat shameful at the end, much like both of the lead characters.

I would definitely recommend catching it at one of the film festivals it will be playing at over the season. The beginning is a tad slow, but when it picks up, it will take the audience on a wild rollercoaster of emotions!

Check out the official site for trivia and showing dates: