Shirley Adams > TriContinental Film Festby Roger Young / 18.09.2009
Shirley Adams is relentless, claustrophobic and incredibly moving. Following the daily grind of a single Cape Flats mother of a young boy made tetraplegic by a gang related gunshot, it is an unflinching journey toward slight redemption. The audacity of Shirley Adams is not plot based but lies in its lack of sensationalism, its rooted performances and its restrained style.
As the debut film of Oliver Hermanus, at times it seems more of an announcement of intention than a complete cinematic experience, with its conclusion feeling almost superfluous. However Shirley Adams is a meditation on the ongoing minor trials of a woman trapped in circumstance and for that reason any conclusion or ending could only feel unsatisfying. Hermanus maintains interest throughout by slowly revealing the smaller facts and events that have led up to Shirley’s situation and while doing so slowly plants clues as to where he is taking us. With masterful performances, evocative human moments and camera work that feels as if its embarrassed for prying, Shirley Adams is a deeply empathetic film.
While Denise Newman’s honest, vulnerable and brave performance provides the emotional center that holds the film’s many details together, the entire cast is uniformly excellent. Beautifully shot and superbly edited, Shirley Adams doesn’t ever become more than the sum of its well crafted parts, but it still remains one of the best films to come out of South Africa this year.
*Winner of Best South African Film, Best Actress, Best First Feature Film at Durban International Film Festival
Jhb: Rosebank Nouveau 19 Sept / 8pm
CT: V&A Nouveau Sat 26 Sept / 8pm