Something isn’t quite right with Jackie. She’s sociable, but oddly passive – sometimes, after work, she meets a married colleague for joyless sex in his car.
She once had a family but now lives alone in a mess of a house. She’s good at her job, monitoring banks of surveillance screens in a CCTV control room – until the cameras pick up someone she seems to recognize. She watches him having sex on wasteground with a woman who may be a prostitute. She follows him with the cameras and finds out where he lives. Off duty, she starts to follow him in the flesh. Why? We don’t know.
Arnold’s thriller is cleverly scripted, but it’s also strongly rooted: in people – Jackie, and Clyde, the man she follows; and place – Glasgow’s high-rise Red Road estate. Its often raw realism is deftly handled, and has an impact beyond the surface – Jackie’s observation of others’ lives is an apt metaphor for her shutdown, her partial withdrawal from life. This focus on character is very convincing, and subverts the preconceptions of class and criminality that the thriller has set up. The film’s pacing isn’t always quite right, but *Red Road* is a superb début – ambitious, engaged, uncompromising, and with great belief in people.