“Uncomfortable viewing” – Mary Lewens
Mary McCormack, Rory Cochrane
These kinds of disaster movies are no longer just disaster movies. The events of 11 September 2001 mean that they are inescapably imbued with a brutal reality for us and so they cease to become entertainment – more of a public warning broadcast.
“Right At Your Door” begins at the start of a seemingly normal day in LA – it’s a cliché that we forgive simply because we know that’s how it happens. Lexi (Mary McCormack) has just left for work when her husband, Brad (Rory Cochrane), hears the panicked radio reports that signal the end of life as they know it and the beginning of a world in which people fight for survival in a city attacked with chemicals. He paces the house, relying on the radio for information and desperately trying to contact his wife on a jammed phone network.
Before long he has to seal their home from the unknown chemicals enveloping the city, without knowing where or how his wife is. When she does make it home he has to wrestle with his conscience – in order to survive he must quarantine her outside until the help that radio reports say is on its way reaches them.
There is a hand held camcorder feel about the film for much of the time, highlighting the horror, anxiety and urgency of a situation that is increasingly becoming a genuine fear. Underlining the psychological and physical isolation that sets in for the couple is the fact that it’s practically a two-hander, meaning that their characters are fairly two-dimensional but for its purpose, the film is no worse off for it. Both Rory Cochrane and Mary McCormack are excellent as the shell-shocked pair. Most of the focus is on their plight and it’s set almost entirely in their home and its immediate surroundings, lending the scenario a siege mentality and intensifying the claustrophobia they must feel as the area is cloaked in the ash that Lexi is choking on.
The script is intelligently and sensitively written with no Hollywood gloss – although it does have a rather inexplicable (albeit dramatic and non-sugar-coated) ending and I was astonished at how long it took Lexi to contact her parents.
The question is – was it necessary to make a film that is undeniably scare mongering in topic? Be warned as it’s not for those prone to pbetsy1anic – but Chris Gorak, who wrote and directed, has created a taut film, treating the subject with care without sensationalising something that needs no extra help in driving the message home – that this could indeed happen right at your door. One thing noticeably – and purposefully – missing from the film is politics. The words ‘terrorist’ or ‘attack’ are never mentioned and the methods used are never discussed – no one has the headspace or the energy to care about anything other than surviving.
While it may be slightly naïve to imagine that the politics behind the attack wouldn’t be endlessly speculated over it gives the film a clarity lacking these days when the news, on either side of the Atlantic, hysterically reports the latest scare. The film is stripped of everything except the stark reality of the couple’s situation.
Filmmakers will never again be frivolous in the telling of a city-under-attack story – whether or not it’s based on real life events. I don’t think this is the most important post 9/11 film you’ll ever see but you have to wonder if you’re watching a potential reality unfold in front of your eyes. It makes for uncomfortable viewing.
Reviewer : Mary Lewens