Review: Dirty God (2019)

Dirty God (2019)

Directed by: Sacha Polak | 105 minutes | drama | Actors: Vicky Knight, Bluey Robinson, Rebecca Stone, Katherine Kelly, Eliza Brady-Girard, Dana Marineci, Karl Jackson, Jake Wheeldon, Rosie Akerman, Tom Wainwright, Wendy Albiston, Karl Jackson, Alys Metcalf, Tachia Newall, Shystie, Frieda Thiel

“Your God is different than my God. Mine is a dirty God.” The film opens with what looks like a conflagration. It is a close-up of the badly burned skin of lead actress Jade (Vicky Knight). In ‘Dirty God’ we follow a young mother who tries to pick up her life in London after a hydrochloric acid attack. We see her struggle with family ties, toxic friendships, loneliness and accepting both her physical and mental scars. Fighting – literally and figuratively – Jade tries to take control of the situation and shows how resilient a human can be.

Sacha Polak tackles a current topic with ‘Dirty God’. Acid attacks are becoming more common in Britain, particularly in London. Polak thought it was important that Jade be played by a young woman who actually has burns on her face. Vicky Knight, who had never acted before ‘Dirty God’, plays the part of Jade in an incredibly natural and sincere way. As a viewer, you don’t get the idea that you’re looking at an actress, but rather at a vulnerable, strong woman who tells her own story. This neo-realistic way of casting, which was also used in films like ‘Fish Tank’ and ‘The Florida Project’, seems to be the best way to tell this story with some authenticity.

Music is an important guideline in the film and is very supportive in a number of scenes. For example, in a great scene where a burqa is central and which you should definitely see on a big screen and with good sound. The dreamlike scenes in which the ex of Jade, the perpetrator of the acid attack, takes on a different form are somewhat out of place. It might have been enough not to show it, or just for a single moment. Jade’s fear can already be felt in many other scenes.

‘Dirty God’ is Polak’s third feature film. Previously she made the critically acclaimed and award-winning films ‘Heaven’ and ‘Zurich’. However, ‘Dirty God’ is her first English-language film and also the first Dutch feature film ever to be selected for the prestigious World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the Sundance Film Festival in America.

With the social-realistic ‘Dirty God’ Polak manages to place himself between directors such as Ken Loach, Andrea Arnold and Mike Leigh. Despite the heavy subject matter, Polak manages to arouse compassion in the viewer instead of pity.

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