Shadow

Naked

Synopsis:
An unemployed Mancunian vents his rage on unsuspecting strangers as he embarks on a nocturnal London odyssey.

The TIFF Bell Lightbox presented a new 4K restoration of 1993's , the breakthrough film for both director Mike Leigh and star David Thewlis.

Johnny (Thewlis) flees Manchester after committing a sexual assault and ends up crashing at the London flat of his ex-girlfriend Louise (Lesley Sharp), where he quickly seduces her roommate Sophie (Katrin Cartlidge). It isn't long before Johnny gets bored of these accommodations and ventures into the streets of London, where he encounters several individuals, including Scotsman Archie (Ewen Bremner) and security guard Brian (Peter Wight). Meanwhile, Louise and Sophie have to contend with their yuppie landlord Sebastian Hawk (Greg Cruttwell), who also happens to be a serial rapist.

Naked made waves upon its premiere, winning Best Director and Best Actor at the Cannes film festival. However, the film is far from a pleasant watch, particularly from the film's depiction of sexual violence, both by Thewlis' protagonist Johnny and Greg Cruttwell's completely irredeemable Sebastian.

Johnny is a borderline sociopath with a highly pessimistic outlook on life, often spouting his belief that humanity is just a few years away from going extinct. Probably one of the best scenes of Naked involves Johnny's extended philosophical conversation with security guard Brian while the latter does his rounds in an empty office building.

In some ways, Johnny's pessimism can be seen as a reason why he simultaneously seduces and mistreats every woman he comes across. However, while Johnny does commit acts in the film that can be considered sexual abuse, it is nothing compared to the actions of Sebastian, who ends up being one of the most dislikeable film antagonists, often seen walking around in little more than a black speedo. In some ways, you expect Johnny to become a knight in shining armour to save Louise and Sophie from Sebastian's abuse, even though things don't end up that way.

Nearly thirty years later, Naked remains probably the darkest of Mike Leigh's films over the years, whose output over the years has included the very optimistic Happy-Go-Lucky in 2008 and Oscar-nominated films such as 2004's Vera Drake and 2014's Mr. Turner.

In today's more politically correct world, I don't really see a film such as Naked getting released, both for its bleak pessimism and an almost casual depiction of sexual assault, where the perpetrators don't get any comeuppance. That said, Naked can still be seen as the signature role for David Thewlis, though it is somewhat hard to believe that a decade later, this incredibly pessimistic individual would be appearing in Harry Potter films.

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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