A one-hit literary wunderkind coasting on the 25-year success of his first novel, author Sandy Duffy (Conleth Lee) makes a comfortable living as a TV personality, butting heads on a late-night arts review show hosted by Lara Pulver’s Lucy, with whom he’s entered a tentative relationship. 

Rich and successful, a star of the Belfast arts scene, Sandy is also a secret kleptomaniac, driven to shoplift cheap, meaningless tat and trinkets from department stores in search of a cheap thrill. But watching, waiting for him to slip up is security guard Robert (Stephen Graham). 

Isolated and lonely, Robert is Sandy’s Number 1 fan, an avid viewer of his TV appearances. He’s got Sandy bang to rights, has CCTV footage of him filching knick knacks. He really should report Sandy to the police. But there’s the scandal to think of, the public humiliation, the ruin. Maybe they can work something out. A drink? One drink after work? One drink can’t hurt…can it? 

But the needy Robert wants more than just a drink. He wants a friend, a big brother, a soulmate. And no matter how hard Sandy wriggles and tries to escape, Robert’s not letting him go, wheedling his way into every corner of the author’s life. But resentment builds, each man’s behavior escalating, their games of tit-for-tat becoming increasingly violent, dangerous, threatening to destroy them both. 

Imagine a parallel universe in which Tom Paulin, erstwhile veteran of BBC2’s Late Review, is a sticky fingered shoplifter being blackmailed by his stalker and you’re halfway to brooding, drizzly, Belfast-set neo-noir, A Patch Of Fog, director Michael Lennox’s twisted little bromance which, much like it’s antagonist, is innocuous, it sneaks up on you, insidiously burrowing it’s way under your skin. 

While a little predictable, the script by John Cairns and Michael McCartney is tight, economical and dark, debut feature director Lennox giving Graham and Hill the space to mine a rich seam of black humour as they fuss and bicker like a particularly unhappy married couple while sofa shopping, Graham the wounded spouse jealous of the time Hill spends with new girlfriend Pulver and her daughter – “I looked through your window, and it looked like the bloody Waltons,” an angry Hill retorting: “I looked through mine, and it looked like the fucking Mansons!” – and while Hill’s Sandy initially has our sympathy, Lennox keeps the ground treacherous. Neither character ultimately is particularly likable, they both deserve what’s coming to them, but Graham’s Robert is strangely innocent, his desperate loneliness, his need, pathetic but understandable, repellant but relatable.

As Sandy, Hill is world away from the Machiavellian Varys he plays on Game Of Thrones his surface confidence, his smug arrogance and belief in his own intelligence and inherent superiority, masking a character just as damaged as Graham’s Robert, deeply insecure and self-destructive, lying to everyone around him, himself most of all, while Graham, the hardest working psycho in British cinema, is skin-crawlingly needy and poignant in equal measure as the marginalised Robert, a man driven to madness by simple loneliness. 

As much a study of class, identity and the perilous double-edged blade of fame as it is a psychological thriller, A Patch Of Fog is a satisfyingly low-key, moody affair that’s ambition never overreaches itself, serving as an effective calling card for it’s young director and allowing the magnetic Graham to add yet another justified sinner to his repertoire of sociopaths and outcasts.

Movie Review: A Patch Of Fog
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