Film Review: The Party (2017)

Sally Potter’s real-time black-and-white film The Party is an A-list dream and really rather funny

“You’re a *first* class lesbian and a *second* rate thinker”

Any work by Sally Potter comes freighted with expectations but rather brilliantly, The Party manages to subvert them all. One doesn’t largely associate comedy with Potter and so this swerve into blackly comic farce comes as a welcome surprise, particularly as delivered by the likes of Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall and Patricia Clarkson.

Scott Thomas plays Janet, newly appointed to the role of shadow health minister who has invited some of her liberal besties over for drinks and nibbles to celebrate. But in the way of these things, everyone has a dark secret waiting to spill out – not least Janet herself – and over the course of the soirée, everything is tipped out into the ocean.

Potter’s trick is to make sure everyone gets lacerated by her excoriating gaze as she tears liberal middle-class types a new one. Janet’s professor husband Bill, full of his own revelations; the lesbian couple who’ve conceived through IVF; the mismatched pairing of a lady who lunches and a life coach. Plus Tom, waiting for his wife, with his coke, and a gun…  

The way events fall out may not offer up a ton of surprises but a wittily contrived script means it is a joy to listen to in this wilfully unreal space that Potter has conjured. Clarkson and Spall both get some cracking one-liners and there’s an effective rug-pull or two to wake you up. An enjoyably arty diversion.

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