A beautiful and reckless woman joins a secret club whose sinister but brilliant premise seems to provide the solution to her problem. But when she falls for a haunted young soldier, his desperation to keep her alive pulls him deeper into his own demons and threatens to destroy their relationship.
Darren Bender's directorial debut delves into complex themes of life and death through a dark love story that echoes a modern-day Cathy and Heathcliff. Oliver Lee and Carli Fish have effortless chemistry and humanise the complexities of their characters' dark pasts.
This film focuses more on the relationship between the central characters rather than the Ferryman Club itself. It lingers over the characters who it affects rather than being an actual plot point that's explored. In one aspect, this is effective in keeping the club a mystery, but it fades a bit too much into the background. While Oliver Lee played Ash well, I sometimes thought Eve may have made more of a logical choice to be the main character.
As this film deals with themes of assisted suicide, there are several characters who join the club who are living with terminal illnesses. As Eve is one of these characters, we see the physical and emotional impact her condition has on her; Fish played these emotionally complex scenes exceptionally well. The fallout of Eve's condition worsening is shown through the two leads' performances and the impact on Eve's loved ones.
For a zero-budget movie, this film brings together an impressive ensemble cast - including Downton Abby's Raquel Cassidy, Jay Simpson and Clint Dyer. Although the film revolves around the two lovers, we also get very moving moments between Eve and her family. In contrast, this highlights Ash's loneliness as, unlike his girlfriend, he is truly alone in the world.
Even though the characters are ultimately headed for tragedy, Bender's film subverts the audience's expectations on several occasions. The darker themes are contrasted with moments of joy, romance and humour. Part tragedy and part coming-of-age, we see two damaged souls find love. Although we'd hope these characters find love, this film leaves its viewers on a - quite literal - cliffhanger. However, that darkness that lingered in almost every scene had a lot of potential.
As much as I thought the gothic romance was written reasonably well, I wanted a bit more action at times. I think I would have liked to see Ash trying to take down the Ferryman Club from the inside or at least discover its origins. The theme of someone's right to choose was a bit lost at times, especially when the audience saw Ash's dark and violent side during one scene. With a very dark premise, there was a lull in the story that gave the audience a false sense of safety as we follow two characters in a whirlwind romance before diving back into a darker conclusion.
This British independent movie sets out to challenge, move and ultimately leave its viewers wanting more - the cast and crew achieve exactly that! As I compared this to a modern twist on Wuthering Heights, this film embraced the dark side of love, but I wish it had leaned more into the hints of thriller that were hinted at.
I would be interested in seeing a possible spin-off or sequel with this team exploring this universe further. There's a tragic beauty in leaving Eve and Ash's story unfinished, but there is definitely space to explore more of these questions of morality through new characters.
My rating for Ferryman (2023) is ★★★★.
Ferryman (2023) is available to buy or rent on Amazon Prime or YouTube.