Maybe if we communicated better, love wouldn’t have to be so tragic as I’ve found that communication is one of the keys to success in any relationship, but that makes for dull storytelling. Blake Ridder’s Help is a morality tale of a love triangle gone wrong. The love triangle in question is between the “loving” couple, high-powered lawyer Ed (Lewis James) and his loyal girlfriend, Liv (Sarah Alexandra Marks). The third point is Liv’s best friend, Grace (Emily Redpath). Now Help is Grace’s story as the story is told through her point-of-view. Spicing things up, it’s revealed that Ed and Grace had a one-night-stand early in Ed’s relationship with Liv.
On this particular evening, Grace happens to be in town and decides to spend the weekend with Ed and Liv to celebrate his birthday. Now, here’s where open communication would have helped. Grace may still have feelings for Ed, but knowing that he’s with Liv makes him unattainable. Likewise, Ed still has feelings for Grace, but she lives in a different part of England, and he’s not willing to move…then there’s the Liv thing. Ed clearly settled for Liv, and she is starting to pick up on that fact.
Did I mention that Help is a thriller? And with it comes the mysterious neighbor David (Blake Ridder), who stands almost frozen outside the house, looking in as a voyeur/ Peeping Tom. He also issues a bizarre warning to Grace just as she arrives at Ed’s home.
“Ed clearly settled for Liv, and she is starting to pick up on that fact.”
The first half of the film is there to set the stage for its thrilling conclusion. Ed is the controlling boyfriend. The insecure Liv puts up with the abuse because she has no other options, and Grace is there unravel the mess she stumbled over. Throughout the heated dinner conversation, all three leads hold their cards close to the vest, which bleeds into a series of betrayals and bad decisions… which could have been avoided if we learned basic interpersonal communication skills. But why spoil the fun?
I wish I had read the synopsis beforehand. It helps to know that Help is a thriller. When I started the movie, I found the characters to be unlikeable (which led to my communication obsession). It would have been easy to write off Ridder’s film right then and there, but please stick with it.
Once our characters make it through the first night, the story kicks into gear, and everything unravels, focusing on Ed’s drinking and the safety of Grace and Liv. We’ve seen this story before, but there’s a massive twist that I can’t even hint at. It works, makes sense, and changes everything you’ve seen up to that point.
But Help has its weaknesses. Much of the movie from the start comes across like a soap opera in terms of acting and dialogue. Lines seem scripted versus feeling natural from the characters. Much of the verbal sparring between the leads feel like it exists to service the plot. What helps overcomes these weaknesses are the performances, particularly from Emily Redpath. She makes it easy for us to step in her shoes and watch events unfold from her perspective. I was going to criticize Ed and Liv as stereotypical or bland, and then the twist happens, which sheds new light on their characters.
Blake Ridder’s Help gets a recommendation. Be patient with the plot, including a story of a lesbian encounter that seems only to exist to be provocative. It’s there for a reason and plays into the ultimate payoff at the end. It’s worth the wait.
"…it works, it makes sense, and it changes everything you've seen up to that point."