Red Road


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I had an experience watching this film that I've had before, and that you've all probably had as well. As I watched it I didn't like it at all, but when I started to look back on it and write about it, I realized that it was not a bad movie.

The reason for that? That phenomenon isn't easy to explain for some films, but in this case it is. It's all in the pacing. Red Road has a lot of good moments, some powerful images, and some interesting concepts. It doesn't have much plot, but what it has is interesting. It would make a worthwhile one-hour episode of Masterpiece Theater. Unfortunately, it presents those 60 minutes of worthwhile film in 113 slow minutes. I'm being charitable with the word "slow." It could be fairly called "slow" if it were a straight drama, but since it is a mystery at heart, it seems to move roughly at the pace of tectonic shifting. Just about every scene goes on longer than necessary, and the impact of the glacial pace is compounded by a bewildering array of nearly indecipherable Glaswegian accents that make it very difficult to understand what's going on during those rare occasions when the plot finally edges tentatively forward. I have described other films as "soporific" in the past, but I was usually writing figuratively to express the fact that the film didn't consistently hold my attention. In this case, however, the word "soporific" is used literally. Not only did I find my mind wandering, but I have to confess that I actually fell asleep twice while trying to watch Red Road. What's more, I also had to take two breaks because I was nodding off, so I ended up watching the film in fifths.

Kate Dickie plays a CCTV observer in Glasgow. The UK is now covered with surveillance cameras, but they would be useless if nobody were actively monitoring their output, so various civil service grinds spend hour after hour studying banks of monitors for possible suspicious activity. Kate is one such grind. She seems to be distracted by something on the monitors which is outside the purview of her job. She is focused in on one guy who doesn't really seem to be doing anything wrong. Her surveillance of the man eventually extends beyond the camera views. She starts stalking him through his high-rise public housing project. The film's POV is hers, so we are led to believe that he's some kind of bad guy and that she has been wronged by him in the past, but when we actually see their encounters, he seems like a decent man trying to make the best of a difficult life. We can only conclude that something connects her to him, and that she considers it tragic, but we are kept in the dark about the specific nature of that connection. At first it seems that she intends to kill him. Then she decides to seduce him.

What's going on?

We're not supposed to know. The first 3/4 of the film unravels as a mystery because her motivations are kept secret as long as possible. You can probably guess that what begins as a mystery film makes a metamorphosis into a hand-wringing drama as the curtains are drawn.

Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


Too slow to be enjoyed by anyone but a movie critic.


4 The Guardian (of 5 stars)
3 BBC  (of 5 stars)
88 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
73 (of 100)

It won a special jury prize at Cannes, and won just about every major award presented in BAFTA's Scottish films category, including Best Picture of 2006.


6.8 IMDB summary (of 10)
B- Yahoo Movies

As popular as the film was with critics, it has not been widely accepted by mainstream audiences. The scores at don't go much lower than B-. (Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls scores a B.)




Box Office Mojo. It was barely distributed in North America, reaching only 11 theaters and grossing only $150,000. Its worldwide revenues were approximately a million dollars.



Kate Dickie gets completely naked twice. One time she shows T&A briefly while looking at herself in her bathroom mirror. The other time is a long and VERY graphic sex scene which includes an erection and either real cunnilingus or a very near miss.

Tony Curran shows it all, including a brief shot of an erection.