Jackie (Kate Dickie) has a great movie job: she spends all day staring at live images from CCTV cameras dotted around Glasgow. I must admit I never imagined anyone was actually watching those things, but apparently so. Jackie is. And if she sees trouble brewing, she dispatches a police car to the scene double quick.
Of course most of the time there's not much going on, so she develops strange sympathies for other people's pets and such. But one day she gets a glimpse of the last man she ever hoped to see, at which point her job becomes a weapon, a personal surveillance tool. Even that isn't enough. Motivated by emotions we can only guess, she takes to following him around in person. The next step is bold, and possibly very dangerous. She engineers a meeting.
The first feature film written and directed by Andrea Arnold - whose terrific short Wasp won an Academy Award - Red Road is the first of three films to be made by three different directors, but with the same nine actors playing the same characters - a project initiated by Lars von Trier and frequent Dogme colloaborators Anders Thomas Jensen and Lone Scherfig. Presumably a subsequent film will focus on Martin Compston and Nathalie Press, who have supporting roles here as a couple of rootless young drifters. Where the filmmakers will go from there is anybody's guess.
But Red Road stands on its own merits and is a satisfying story on its own terms. The title comes from a monolithic block of flats where Jackie tracks down the mysterious Clyde (Tony Curran), and seems to presage a grim ending. In the event, Arnold builds up considerable suspense about where the movie might be heading, and I for one never imagined what Jackie had in mind. It's a dangerous game she plays, and when all becomes clear, well, that only makes things murkier, morally speaking.
The film is arguably too back-loaded for its own good. An awful lot hinges on the final revelation of an incident that happened several years earlier, and when that denouement comes you might feel it's something of a letdown. But the movie has been a compelling ride up to that point, and Arnold gets exceptionally strong, believable performances from Kate Dickie and Tony Curran. Red Road won the Jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.