Despite its ominous title suggesting the typical type of low-budget British film that earns the increasingly grating adjective ‘gritty’, Everyone’s Going to Die is actually a delight of a film, the kind of low-key, hidden gem that justifies the existence of film festivals. Filmmaking collective Jones wrote, directed, produced and edited the film with a virtually unknown cast and the result is a triumph in independent filmmaking.
The contained narrative follows Melanie (Nora Tschirner), a German girl living by the British seaside with her neglectful fiancé, a callous artist who we only come to know through brief phone calls. Heading home one morning after a particularly heavy house party, she stops in at a dank little café where she meets Ray (Rob Knighton), a mysterious drifter in town for his brother’s funeral and a shady piece of ‘business’.
What begins as a moment of everyday politeness, over the course of the day turns into a life-changing connection for both of them. The relationship never becomes physical or even typically romantic; it’s more just a case of two lost and lonely people finding a kindred spirit. Ray is apprehensive at first but Melanie soon manages to coax him out of his shell and their exchanges become more comfortable as they distract each other from their respective problems.
Ray even takes Melanie to visit his estranged family, leading to the film’s most awkward and absurdly hilarious scene as Ray’s teenage niece Laura (Madeline Duggan) has the family enact a short play she’s written to cope with the death of her father.
Despite a slow pace and very little action to speak of, the film is never less than engrossing. The script is sharp and dryly witty, dealing with themes as broad as love and loss within a small, intimate story.
The bulk of the film’s charm is down to the performances from Tschirner and Knighton, who both rise to the challenge of carrying a film. German TV actress Tschirner is effortlessly beguiling while portraying the melancholy Melanie feels in her current situation, a woman far from home and trapped in a relationship she doesn’t truly want.
Knighton is quietly charismatic as Ray, slowly revealing himself throughout the film leading up to a heartbreaking revelation about his past. At the age of 50, this is Knighton’s first major film role after being plucked from his carpet-fitting job by a modelling agency. His lack of experience shows in the best kind of way, giving a completely natural turn full of deadpan appeal.
Everyone’s Going to Die is a tremendous example of low-fi British filmmaking. Every aspect of the film is exceptional, from the naturalistic performances to the haunting imagery, charting an offbeat relationship with sensitivity and charm.