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One Star Classics


/ Thriller

Censor cover

The video nasty-craze of early-eighties Britain is something too convoluted to dive too deeply into here. The gist of it was a band of (presumably) well-meaning conservatives blaming violent movies on real-world violence. That’s demonstrably untrue, of course, but people will be people, and people like to make easy conclusions for complicated problems.

Censor takes place during the height of the scare. We follow Enid, a censor whose worldviews are colored by the childhood disappearance of her sister, Nina. Exactly what happened is up for debate, but that Enid was there — and has only fleeting memories of what might have happened — is more than plausible.

Broken down by squashed hopes, Enid’s parents finally decide to declare Nina dead in absentia. Enid is stunned, and when she is put to work on a movie that is identical to how she remembers Nina’s disappearance, she seemingly starts losing grip of reality. Is the movie inspired by real-life events or is Enid’s memories actually of having seen the film before? As she starts digging into director Fredrick North’s oeuvre, Enid starts obsessing over the possibility of his actress, Alice Lee, being her long-lost sister.

I’m not entirely sure what I expected Censor to be, but a grounded, sometimes surreal satire was not it. The tropes of media-begets-violence are turned on its head, and the deep dive into Enid’s psyche is a vehicle for larger questions about mental health. It’s easy to blame everything from movies to video games for the ills of society; figuring how to deal with the human psyche is a whole lot more difficult. (Mary Whitehouse, Maggie Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan all landed on violent films being the root of violence during that era – we are still suffering from those decisions.)

Censor is well-crafted by first-time-feature director Prano Bailey-Bond. She and co-writer Anthony Fletcher never excuse the (quite frankly) poor-taste movies of the mid-seventies through the early eighties, but they also do not posit them being vehicles for violence. There’s a balancing act there, and they tread the line well.

It’s a slow-moving movie, and the more surreal moments are colored in dreamlike, saturated colors. It looks quite nice, though the pacing can be a bit too sluggish at times. Not that I wanted the franticness of the movies Enid was censoring, but there are scenes here and there that strictly are unnecessary. Still, I suppose I understand why they didn’t want the run-time to be cut from its eighty-three minutes.

On a more positive note, Niamh Algar’s portrayal of a dreary worker in a dreary office, who also lives in a dreary apartment is laudable. It’s easy to sympathize with where Enid landed in life and her views on censorship aren’t downright misplaced. A bit extreme, maybe, but they come from a good place. Algar gives her character the depth it needs.

I enjoyed Censor. It’s a well-made movie with a smart third act. Is the pacing a bit off? Sure, but the film doesn’t turn boring. If you’re into a thinking perso’s thriller, Censor should be high up on your watchlist.

By Remi,

Letterboxd summary: Film censor Enid takes pride in her meticulous work, guarding unsuspecting audiences from the deleterious effects of watching the gore-filled decapitations and eye gougings she pores over. Her sense of duty to protect is amplified by guilt over her inability to recall details of the long-ago disappearance of her sister, recently declared dead in absentia. When Enid is assigned to review a disturbing film from the archive that echoes her hazy childhood memories, she begins to unravel how this eerie work might be tied to her past.

Ratings from around the web

Icon Site Score
One Star Classics logo One Star Classics 4/6
Letterboxd logo Letterboxd 3.27/5
IMDb logo IMDb 6/10
Rotten Tomatoes logo Tomatometer 89/100

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