Director: Simon Powell
Cast: Mark Sheals, Darren Connolly, Shirley Henderson
Watch The Caravan online in the UK: Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Google Play
If you’ve ever been on holiday in a caravan, this British indie film will ring true. When caravan owner Georgina passes away, she leaves behind one condition in her will: that her son and her husband, who have not spoken for a long time, repair her mobile home together.
It’s a request that both scoff at, before grudgingly agreeing to at least give it a go for a week – after which they are told they will be given an explanation for her dying request. Of course, we don’t need a week to figure it out: as their tense awkwardness slowly begins to thaw with every screw fastened and every window pane replaced, the symbolism of the broken caravan representing their relationship becomes painfully obvious.
Mark Sheals and Darren Connolly are both impressive as the estranged pair. Sheals’ dad, Keith, wears his grief on his fists, a hulking, intimidating man whose manners mostly overcome his anger. Connolly, meanwhile, is as mopey as they come, talking back to his dad before skulking off to the pub to flirt with the barmaid, not worrying about his wife back home. Their bond is believable enough, but the direction and script (co-written by helmer Simon Powell and Chris Green) turns the subtle nuances of their underplayed reconciliation into overstated drama: local thugs emerge to force the family to draw together, while every time an emotional conversation takes place, loud choral music and sweeping strings see, to intrude upon the silence. You half expect one of them to turn around and tell the orchestra sitting nearby to pipe down.
There are moments of engaging emotion – Shirley Henderson is very good as a caravan neighbour with problems of her own – but the mismatch of heightened post-production and low-key acting drowns out a lot of The Caravan’s stronger parts. If you’ve ever been on holiday in a caravan, the location and mundane, everyday details will ring true, but some of the weightier moments may end up stuck in the mud.