Lost in a whirlpool of fear and regret, Harry Bradshaw attempts to find innocence in director/writer Lewis William Robinson’s debut feature film Orchid Moon.
Harrogate in North Yorkshire has a very high number of millionaires, with 11% of the town’s population falling into that bracket. There are an estimated 9,500 millionaires across the town, which is the fourth-highest number of millionaires per household in any town or city in England. It’s a lovely place to visit and undoubtedly for those of us who can afford it, a great place to live. However, Orchid Moon, the first feature film of director Lewis William Robinson, all filmed in Harrogate, decides to show none of this affluence or prosperity, in fact, it goes nowhere near them and instead focuses on the less glamorous aspects of desperate people in desperate situations.
A noir at its heart, Orchid Moon gives us actor Jake Waring playing the Bogart-esque Harry Bradshaw – a troubled man facing multiple challenges. He experiences rejection at his local bar and is forcibly removed from the premises, but as the story unfolds, we begin to learn the real reasons behind Harry’s decline, including the absence of his partner and his contemplation of suicide. Harry’s life then takes an unexpected turn when he forms a last-minute connection with Anna. The central question revolves around whether Harry can leave his past behind and rebuild his life, or if his emotional baggage will hinder his chances of saving himself. We must also give a shout-out to TV royalty and Harrogate local actor Frazer Hines of Doctor Who and Emmerdale fame, who appears in a lovely little cameo.
Noir is the film’s biggest influence, but Orchid Moon also shows flashes of horror and demonstrates that Robinson has a genuine talent for telling bold and captivating stories, managing, alongside his skilful cinematographer Matt Kerins, to showcase themselves as gifted and visually talented filmmakers. The film’s remarkable cinematography is a standout and deserves special mention for its evocative use of light and shadow. Together, Robinson and Kerins cultivate an atmosphere of suspense and intrigue, with the choice to film in black and white (despite the odd colour sequence) helping immerse the audience in a mesmerizing and dreamlike North Yorkshire town. While the film’s enigmatic plot may not resonate with viewers seeking a straightforward storyline, those who relish a slow-building and atmospheric drama will discover a wealth of enjoyment in Orchid Moon. It’s certainly not The Third Man, but it does invoke those comparisons with the clever use of Dutch angles, a genuine nod to German expressionism, and Harrogate substituting cleverly for a shadowy post-war Vienna.
Orchid Moon is a film that demands the audience’s full attention, but it is a noticeable slow burner. This is an issue that would not be a problem normally, but with a runtime of just 64 minutes, the aforementioned pacing issues in a feature film that short just begs the question: will the audience stay the course? Lewis William Robinson’s artistic vision is certainly evident in the film’s atmosphere and visuals, and some viewers will appreciate the film’s thought-provoking narrative even if they don’t fully understand the abstract storytelling. However, others will find it just a bit too confusing, with no real conclusions.
Ultimately, Orchid Moon is a polarizing film that will challenge its viewers to interpret what its complex emotions and symbolism are all about. It takes a while to say anything at all, but what it does do is introduce us to a new and very promising group of Northern filmmakers.