It is Christmas day and young woman named Morvern Callar(Samantha Morton) has just discovered the body of her boyfriend, an artist, who has chosen the festive holidays to commit suicide. On his computer she finds an eerily matter-of-fact suicide note with instructions to submit his manuscript to a list of publishers. Morvern weeps silently and privately over her boyfriend. She delays telling anyone about the death, not even her best friend Lanna(Kathleen McDermott). While a corpse lies frozen on the floor Morvern continues with some semblance of a normal routine: she goes to work, goes to parties, gets drunk etc. Several days go on like this. Is she afraid to acknowledge his death, afraid to let him go? But then Morvern begins to act in a very strange and unpredictable manner. Firstly she disposes of her boyfriend's body by cutting him up and burying him in the countryside. She then erases his name from his novel, replaces it with her own and takes off to Almeria, Spain, where she intends to sell it to a publisher as her own work.
The darkly absurd early image of Christmas tree lights flickering on a still corpse gives us a certain clue as to what kind of movie this will be. It's a devastating opening that succeeds in grabbing the viewer's attention. But what keeps us interested is the peculiar way in which Movern goes about dealing with the death of her boyfriend. You may find yourself shocked not only by the audacity, but more so by the coldness of Morvern's actions. Why does she put her own name on that manuscript? Morvern certainly has no interest in the romance of being an artist. Her reasons for doing such a thing are purely mercenary. Her actions also provoke interesting questions about the nature of her relationship to this man.
This is quite a strange movie about a rather strange woman with a very strange name. Samantha Morton gives an incredible performance, perfectly conveying the enigma that is Morvern Caller. She says little but has a menacing air about her. We don't know what mental activity goes on behind her big eyes and it's unsettling to guess at. At times, as in the beginning of the movie, she seems completely vulnerable and terrified of what the future holds in store for her. More often she appears spookily detached and supremely indifferent to the world around her. She is completely inexplicable and contradictory, and that is what makes her such a fascinating character to observe. It doesn't surprise me that Woody Allen chose Samantha Morton to portray a mute lady in Sweet and Lowdown, as I can't think of any other performer who can express so much without uttering a single word. This is the perfect role to display her talents and it's as good a performance I've ever seen from any actor or actress in recent years.
This is the second movie of Lynne Ramsey, who later went on to direct the acclaimed We Need to Talk about Kevin. She's a very talented director and here she successfully creates an atmosphere of dread and foreboding. She also manages to capture a general feeling of nausea, postponement and depression, particular in the early scenes. She has a strong visual flair and an eye for stark, grotesque imagery. I'm looking forward to seeing more of her work.