The phrase “lipstick on the collar” is a common saying when one suspects another of infidelity. In Claire Oakley’s 2019 film Make Up, Ruth finds lipstick and other clues that lead her to think her boyfriend Tom is unfaithful. However, as the clues add up, Ruth’s imagination begins to run wild. As Ruth’s search for the truth intensifies, a new mystery is revealed. Oakley’s Make Up is a suspenseful tale of self discovery and growing up.
Make Up has all the themes of a coming of age story, but the direction of the film casts a haunting pall over it. A young girl arrives at an isolated holiday park in Cornwall. The setting places an enormous role in developing the tone of the film. The wind and waves are overhead throughout most of the film and Ruth is greeted upon arrival by Shirley, the holiday park’s manager. Shirley, played by Lisa Palfrey, is blunt unwelcoming, but not rude woman. She lets out a laugh that is almost Lynchian given Ruth’s lonely night time arrival. Ruth makes love to Tom on her first night there, but is distracted by a banshee-like scream that goes on throughout the evening. An eerie tone is set for the movie.
And yet it’s not a horror movie and it’s not a mystery. Ruth, played by Molly Windsor, is new to town, new to the job, and most of all is scared her boyfriend is cheating on her. This fear plagues her and she imagines her boyfriend with a faceless woman. She becomes obsessed with this woman and idea that most of Ruth’s scenes are a bit chaotic as she stumbles through the beach and runs through the vans at the park. Windsor gives a great performance as a scared but driven young woman. She approaches strange sounds, she dives into dark settings, hoping to find answers.
Oakley’s writing and direction take a story of self discovery and elevates it. Windsor’s performance is excellent. Make Up is surprising and suspenseful and illustrates how searching for happiness can be a frightening yet rewarding experience.
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