It Is in Us All Review – Antonia Campbell-Hughes’ Dark Debut Evokes the Crisis of Masculinity Under the Weight of Patriarchal Oppression

This review contains discussions of suicide and mental health trauma.

Antonia Campbell-Hughes’ debut feature It Is in Us All asks a question with its title. What is in us all? For Londoner Hamish Considine (Cosmo Jarvis) is seems it is a quest for oblivion, the pull of the death drive that leads him to an extreme collapse of self-identity. For the Evan (Rhys Mannion) a teenager who collides literally with Hamish is it the reckless abandon of youth and a search for belonging, or is he too walking a tightrope towards death?

Hamish is a successful and buttoned up man. He is in Ireland to take care of the deceased estate of his Aunt Tara, specifically the house in Donegal where she and his mother, Annie grew up. On his way to the house he’s involved in a head on collision which claims the life of fifteen-year-old Callum, although leaves his ‘passenger’ Evan unharmed. Hamish awakes in hospital with a fracture and a head injury and limited memory of the accident. He leaves the hospital as early as he can and heads to Tara’s home. Once there buried secrets are revealed and Hamish’s self-possession comes apart piece by piece.

Haunted by taking a life and haunted by a life he never lived – one that would have seen him brought up in Ireland with his mother who committed suicide in London, Hamish is falling apart in real time. Increasingly fraught calls to his father, Jack Considine (Claes Bang) prove that Hamish’s understanding of who his mother was has been controlled by Jack’s outright dismissal of her as “selfish and spoiled,” – a woman who refused to live long enough to care for her son. Jack has also been mostly absent choosing to live in Hong Kong and control Hamish from afar.

Hamish’s internal conflict is made all the more difficult by the appearance of seventeen-year-old Evan, the person who was really driving the car that collided with his. It’s hard to gauge what Evan wants from Hamish beyond needing him to keep his secret about being the driver. It becomes opaquer as the youth begins to wrap Hamish into his daily life. Is he an angel, a devil, a seducer? Is he trying to heal or hurt Hamish, and could the inverse be true that Hamish is possibly trying to heal or hurt him?

Beneath Hamish’s well-groomed exterior is a man running on empty. He is hollowed out by a lack of love and family. As he watches Evan with his gentle relationship with his grandfather he sees that he has lost something – a sense of connection to anything. In the tiny Irish town is he finally reckoning with that lack?

Campbell-Hughes allows the psycho-sexual undertone of Hamish’s relationship with Evan to come to the fore. Hamish is attracted to the reckless but vulnerable youth and has to wake up to himself when Evan deliberately provokes him. Campbell-Hughes knows that there is something ‘wrong’ with their relationship and playing the role of Callum’s mother makes it clear that Hamish is deeply broken. The film is filled with motherless sons and sonless mothers. The grief that permeates the screen is almost palpable and suffocating.

Campbell-Hughes has stated that It Is in Us All is a film about misplaced male energy and the harm that patriarchy can cause the men who live under it. For Evan and his friends they must find an outlet for their energy that doesn’t spill into violence. For Hamish he needs to realise that he has been holding on to a life built on lies. The car crash is something more than an event that brings Evan and Hamish together, it is an eventuality. Hamish could have swerved to avoid the crash, but he didn’t. For a moment he was alive in the possibility of death.

Cosmo Jarvis is a rising talent – his breakout role in William Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth (also Florence Pugh’s breakout role) showed he could inhabit a character that is seductive and menacing. In It Is in Us All he wears a weariness and silent self-destruction that far belies his years. Initially the role of Hamish was written for Jim Sturgess and meant to be for a man in his forties, yet Jarvis manages to make his relative youth appear a weight. He’s meant to be on the rise, but he is falling. Newcomer Rhys Mannion as Evan sparks as the unpredictable young man who wants to belong but needs to escape. If Hamish stays in Donegal then there is something the two can share, beyond their secret. He appeals to Hamish to remain “You belong here, you are from here.”

It Is in Us All won a prize for “Extraordinary Cinematic Vision” at SXSW when it premiered in 2022. The gorgeous and sometimes gothic cinematography of Piers McGrail is well deserving of the award. Under Campbell-Hughes’ direction he crafts extraordinary scenes that reverberate with both stillness and frantic energy. It is often said that the camera is a character (and indeed it is our POV) and with McGrail’s astute work the camera is a version of Hamish and Evan as well as the vehicle which captures Donegal’s isolation and beauty.

Ultimately, Campbell-Hughes doesn’t give the audience a clean resolution to Hamish’s alienation. Has he learned to live? Has he found the spark that is in us all, or has he reached a point where he understands the other drive that has been sending him into a spiral of suicidal ideation? Whichever it is there is little doubt that Campbell-Hughes debut is thematically rich as it is dark and proves that she is a director who has talent to burn.

Director: Antonia Campbell-Hughes

Cast: Cosmo Jarvis, Rhys Mannion, Claes Bang

Writer: Antonia Campbell-Hughes

Nadine Whitney

Nadine Whitney holds qualifications in cinema, literature, cultural studies, education and design. When not writing about film, art or books, she can be found napping and missing her cat.

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