Movies: All Good Children ***
There's a dreamlike quality to this promising feature debut from Irish filmmaker Alicia Duffy. Or perhaps that should be nightmare, because after a cheerful enough start, things turn pretty dark for a group of children adrift in the countryside of northern France. Teenage brothers Eoin (David Brazil) and Dara (Jack Gleeson) are sent to live with a friend of their father's in a tiny French village beside a forest.
Though it remains pretty much unspecified, their background is not a happy one: their parents are separated, they're a long way form home and Dara, in particular, seems a troubled soul.
Things pick up when he meets Bella (Imogen Jones), an ethereal-looking young English girl of about his age.
Bella lives in a ramshackle chateau which her eccentric parents are slowly doing up, and Dara becomes a regular guest.
Bella shows him her toys and they go on walks together through the woods, but while she regards him as a friend, Dara is developing a dangerous obsession.
From an early stage in the proceedings, Duffy establishes an atmosphere of mounting dread. The storyline's deliberate vagueness adds to the unease, and a dream-like haze makes you doubt your senses when a summer crush turns to misunderstanding.
In its latter stages, All Good Children takes a turn that proves a little hard to swallow, but overall Duffy handles her story beautifully.
The young cast are excellent, in particular Gleeson and the remarkably poised Jones, and the film's saturated colours and moments of portentous stillness linger long after an initial viewing.