Kaleidoscope presents a somewhat contrived and frustrating experience, however standout performances across the central cast and some exceptional cinematography by Philipp Blaubach make this worth the watch.
Toby Jones stars in his brother’s psychological thriller as a broken man, living out his life in a dingy flat, complete with oppressively beige furnishings. It’s a somewhat grim existence. However when he returns home with a date, the atmosphere begins to change and tighten, falling ever further into claustrophobia and uncertainty. The film aligns us with Jones’s increasing instability; its plot refracting as if filtered through the titular kaleidoscope, dropping in and out of different moments, often leaving strands to be picked up later. It’s a technique which fundamentally succeeds at making it difficult to determine the true nature of what we are seeing, however it does occasionally slip into artifice and the film relies a little too heavily on its stylised approach in order to truly work well.
The film starts strong and we find that we have a reason to invest in our lead character as he plays off against his date, there is humanity and depth to their evolving and layered relationship. However, once the plot’s momentum starts to pick up speed the film loses something of this, wasting the potential it had built by focusing too much on its presentation. There is enough intrigue and atmosphere built though that this would have been salvageable, however the film overplays its hand with an ending that robs us of any sense of satisfaction. The final moments of the film confirming our suspicions that we were watching a classic case of style over substance.
This is not to belittle the great performances by the cast, or the stunning work by the cinematographer however. Toby Jones reminds us that he can take us from empathy to revulsion and then back again without barely moving a muscle and Anne Reid brings gravitas to a role which could have easily slipped into caricature. The real star of the show though is Blaubach who lays the film out so well; his smart camera work effectively building the tension whilst also helping to guide us through the labyrinthian narrative.
Kaleidoscope is often technically well crafted, and features sharp performances from across its cast, however ultimately rings rather hollow.
Kaleidoscope is available on DVD today.