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The Independent Critic

Christopher Hatherall, Freya Berry, Greg Barnett, Lynette Creanne, Caroline Langrishe, Harrison Sharpe, Louise Templeton
Mark Withers
NR (Equiv. to "R")
103 Mins.

 "Bonobo" Benefits From Solid Acting 
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Alec (Christopher Hatherall) and Sarah Turner (Freya Berry) are a happily married couple with a charming young son, Matthew (Harrison Sharpe). While they lead a simple yet seemingly idyllic life, Alec is unemployed and, as such, their seemingly idyllic life is interrupted when Sarah receives an e-mail from the Messalina Escort Agency with the proposition of going on a date in London with a foreign visitor for £42,000 in cash.

Sarah, a former model who has retained her rather looks, is initially bemused by this offer but before long she begins to realize that this "date" could be the answer to their financial problems and could help her move forward on some of her desired projects. Alec feels trapped, projecting himself as either a controlling husband if he says "No" but an uncaring one if he permits the date to occur. Finally relenting, the two travel to London for the "date," having promised to never discuss the details of the date once it is over.

That's not going to be easy.

If you're even remotely familiar with contemporary cinema, there's a pretty good chance that Indecent Proposal is flashing through your brain already. To be fair to writer/director Mark Withers, Bonobo is definitely a different beast of a film even though it does tackle many of the same themes such as trust in a relationship, communication, etc. The film benefits greatly from two strong performances from its co-leads, Christopher Hatherall and Freya Berry, whose chemistry projects a sort of peaceful existence yet one that is vulnerable and, perhaps, wearing a thinly veiled facade. Both performers do a nice job of adding layers to their characters and in adding layers of complexity to the relationship that are both spoken and unspoken.

Withers has previously written and directed two short films along with a project known as Bare Naked Talent, and it's clear early on that he's immensely interested in sexual ethics and the ins and outs (pun intended) of intimacy. The film, which just played in its first film festival in England on May 3rd, is hindered at times by a sense of drama that it doesn't quite always live into. From Withers' own lensing that leans towards unnecessarily dramatic pauses to Christof Davis's over-emoting original score, Bonobo feels like a film that wants to be far more important than it actually ends up being.

Yet, much of the film also works and it all begins with the involving performances. While the dramatically framed lensing proved troublesome, Withers shot the film on the Red Epic and the photography is pristine and capitalizes greatly on Peak District locale.

Bonobo isn't a flawless film, yet it's also not a film I regretted seeing. While it's themes aren't exactly uncommon in indie cinema, Bonobo is a well made and well acted film that should find success on the indie Euro film fest circuit. For more information, visit the film's website linked to in the credits on the left.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic