WestEnd Films’ The Score premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and it was my personal pick to kick off my first year at TIFF. Written and directed by Malachi Smyth, its description offered something I had not anticipated seeing at the festival — a musical thriller set amid the backdrop of a dreary British day.
The Score is a Unique Twist, Filled with Inspired Performances and Heart-Stirring Songs
The Score is not at all what one expects when they see the words “Crime, “Drama,” or “Music” attached to a film. Perhaps the latter, but “Music” is such a vague category, that when the film begins to materialize on the screen you hardly expect it to be an honest-to-God musical.
Johnny Flynn may, perhaps, be best known for his role as Mr. Knightely in Autumn de Wilde’s adaptation of Emma. or even Dylan on Netflix’s British acquisition Lovesick, but in The Score, he plays a less savory sort of chap. Mike is a small-time crook who partners up with Troy (Will Poulter), the younger brother of his currently incarcerated best friend. They head out on a mission — the “score” — which they believe will vastly transform their circumstances. But unbeknownst to one of them, there are ulterior motives at play.
They head to the middle of nowhere, to a roadside café, to await the handover and it is there that the bulk of the movie unfolds. The duo meets Gloria (Naomi Ackie) the somewhat beleaguered waitress who insists she doesn’t do tableside service, who has her own circle of “shit” she’s dealing with. Gloria and Troy find themselves inexplicably drawn to one another, enough so that they both begin to question their life choices during the 8-hour window of time they share together.
While the duo waits for the handover that may never arrive, they are treated to a glimpse into life in the quaint little café. There’s a revolving door of patrons that come and go while they sit: an elderly chess player, a pair of men they ran into at a gas station, a traveling photographer, a pianist, and a mother and daughter. I tried to unwind these encounters — searching for a deeper meaning behind these specific choices. I only managed to conceive one theory about the photographer who offers immortality to Troy, in the form of having his photograph taken. The weight of this encounter comes into full play as the final act closes. Does Troy live “forever” or has he been swept out to the proverbial sea?
As I mentioned at the start of this review, The Score is a musical. The singing is artfully integrated throughout the film, serving as the characters’ internal monologues sung themselves, mumbled tunes not quite heard by those around them, and heartfelt duets by tragic lovers. Johnny Flynn is as gifted as an actor as he is as a musician. Every song in the film was written by Flynn and they mesh so perfectly with the tonality of the film.
The Score is something wonderfully magical, from the artistry in its simplicity to the tragedy of its raw aspirations.
The Score does not yet have a theatrical release date.