True Things is an introspective drama about how desperation and low self-esteem can drive a person into a harmfully one-sided relationship that’s difficult to escape from.
Kate (Ruth Wilson) is a troubled woman going through a mid-life crisis as an unemployment benefits officer. Fed-up with her existence, she becomes infatuated with a cocky blonde handsome client (Tom Burke) who asks her out to lunch. Immediately, she becomes obsessed with this erotic stranger as well as the excitement he has brought to her lonely existence and feels she must hold onto him. Although obvious to anyone, on the outside, her love for ‘Blonde’ is one-sided she begins to throw her life away to continue this harmful relationship.
This would be a hard watch for anyone with similar feelings to Kate of low self-worth or those going through the same kind of midlife crisis where everyone around you seems to have their life in order as you struggle to keep up. Based on the 2010 novel ‘True Things About Me‘ by Deborah Kay Davies, this film takes on similar themes we’ve seen in lighter movies such as Bridesmaids, although here, done with a much darker tone.
This feature is shot in a 1:37:1 academy (square) aspect ratio or in other words, what every movie or tv show looked like before widescreen. True Things almost seems like it was filmed both with this focal range in mind, however, much of the action seems to happen outside of our view. While this may be distracting to some viewers, I appreciated how uncomfortable things appeared and the sense of inebriated-like tunnel vision in which we perceive Kate‘s journey.
Ruth Wilson gives a brave performance as Kate. Far from being an unattractive woman herself, you can see how her character might have feelings of such. There is something real about her performance and through very little dialogue for long periods of time, Wilson evokes the spirit of somebody we can empathise with. Even when we know Kate is making all the wrong decisions and has been doing so long before audiences meet her.
Likewise, Tom Burke is brilliant his role as ‘Blonde’. He exudes confidence, charm, masculinity, and a boyish cheekiness when it’s time to draw in his prey, only to be able to turn on a dime and become a cold heartless bastard without it feeling fake. We never see him other than through Kate‘s eyes as he comes and goes through her life and Burke is a highlight of the movie when he’s on screen, to the point we as an audience are almost happy to see him, despite the destruction his character leaves in his wake.
True Things does have an extremely slow dreamlike pace which I think works for the most part, with the exception of its third act. I mentioned Bridesmaids before and although that was a much lighter film, it did follow the same basic character arc for its protagonist and possibly because there is a lot more going on in that movie that made the resolution feel more earned.
I would imagine as an adaptation, the script follows along the same highs and lows as Davies‘ novel but more likely with the benefits of internal monologue, the book carries this off in a more believable way. Aided by two amazing lead performances and subtle techniques, as well as not so subtle with the aspect ratio, Kate‘s downward spiral is a natural and honest story. The trouble comes in the tail end as we change gears quite suddenly without building up to it first.
True Things might seem at first about the emptiness of a relationship based on short term sexual pleasure, but it more reflects the disgraces to which we subject ourselves when we base our self-worth on what our partner thinks of us. There is a reason so many comedies are about characters overcoming these toxic relationships and this film itself features moments which feel almost funny, if it wasn’t for how heart-breaking they are, and knowing that we may all at one point have been this desperate to be loved ourselves.