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by Roger Young / 30.06.2009

From the credits alone it is obvious that Discreet is a labour of love. It is also an attempt to have a discussion with the audience about the nature of honesty as it pertains to love, sex and faith. The central flaw with Discreet is that it focuses too much on the discussion and not enough on the characters having the discussion.

Thomas (James Alexander) is a clean cut, son of a pastor, who is struggling with issues that are revealed throughout the film. As these issues relate to sexuality, he chooses to visit a high-class prostitute (I would say escort, but they never leave her house), Monique (Anel Alexander). Monique is as elastic about her professional boundaries as most men wish sex workers were with their willingness. When James reveals to her that he just wants to talk about sex, she allows him to stay. It is obvious at this point that this film was written by men who have never tried to confess to a prostitute, they are generally not that open to it. There is an attempt to explain the difference between personal and private space and, to the script’s credit, it does paint Monique’s willingness to listen as an attempt to garner more business. However, any escort who looks like Monique, having a workplace as up-market as hers, would probably not need to drum up any extra business. I point this out merely because Anel Alexander’s performance is excellent, given the material she is working with. James Alexander’s, on the other hand, is wooden and often resorts to easy devices, such as exasperation.

Although Discreet is a well paced and beautifully shot piece of cinema, there are moments when a contrast in lighting styles between personal and private space might have done it well. Often the performances, due to the construction of the narrative (Thomas storms out, comes back. Monique kicks Thomas out, stops him leaving, repeat), lead to histrionics that would not have been necessary had finer attention been paid to research and character background. Because of this, Discreet at times feels like it would have been a better short film than feature. But while it has some flaws, it is nonetheless compelling. Its well paced direction and deft handling of some clunky dialogue reveals a talented and brave filmmaker, albeit one whose thematic and visual language is embryonic. Discreet may not deliver totally as a film, but it does make the prospect of future Joshua Rous films promising.

*Directed by Joshua Rous
*Starring Anel Alexander and James Alexander
*Available for rental at blockbuster from Ster Kinekor

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