A quiet gem from co-directors Luke Seomore and Joseph Bull, Blood Cells stars Barry Ward as a man on a journey to reckon with his past, a journey both literal and figurative. As Adam travels across England towards a family reunion he dreads, the film slowly and almost furtively reveals the traumatic backstory of the agricultural disaster that struck his family years before and its tragic repercussions.
Kindhearted yet self-absorbed, a quiet loner, Adam is summoned by a phone call from his brother with news of a new baby. Having left behind in London a girlfriend he still may love in his muted way, Adam travels north through landscapes sometimes green, more often bleak, hesitating and zigzagging. Buying alcohol for two underage girls and then, for lack of anything better to do, spending the night on the street with them, he is shier than they are. Pain simmers beneath his surface, reflecting the girls’ alienation from their quotidian lives.
When he stops to check in on an old girlfriend, waves of history between the two are telegraphed in a brief conversation, the upshot of which is that she can’t put him up for the night. He does find brief succor by visiting a cousin with whom he grew up, but who ends up directing him to a kind of home for lost souls overseen by an intensely religious proselytizer whose missionary zeal sends Adam fleeing. Meanwhile, artfully paced flashbacks slowly show us what propelled Adam away from his family in the first place.
With a subtle, cloaked naturalism Ward disappears neatly into his role. Guided by the concise and well-reckoned script that’s clipped and sometimes almost minimalist, the supporting cast does the same. Blood Cells is well paced, feelingly directed, wanly lit to match its mood, and smoothly edited. Once or twice Seomore’s synth-heavy score gets a little heavy-handed, but for the most part it keeps its own counsel as a good score should. As a change of pace from CGI blockbusters and gauche comedies, this film will suit beautifully. It comes out August 17 on DVD and VOD.