Estranged (aka January) (2015)

Estranged (aka January) first published by Little White Lies

When we first encounter January (Amy Manson) – named for the Roman god of doors, beginnings and transitions – she is on a Brazilian motorcycling trip with her boyfriend Callum (Simon Quarterman) and fleetingly free, having six years earlier severed all ties with her past. Yet an accident leaves her wheelchair-bound, memory-addled and returned to the English stately manor and family that she has now entirely forgotten.

As she struggles to get better, and to recall what specifically estranged her from this crumbling pad and its dysfunctional residents (including James Cosmo’s menacing patriarch), January will gradually realise that when it comes to the property’s bloodline of succession, she’s definitely next – and may never be able to escape her genealogy again.

Adam Levins’ feature debut as director is a paranoid chamber piece, where a family home is also a prison of perverse history, aspirational envy and twisted revenge. Estranged (aka January) shows England’s class structure to be a closed system, its bricks and mortar staying essentially fixed no matter how deep the genetic pool may run. January might just be the revolutionary to let everything burn and to build a new world – but an ambiguous ending, poised on the doorstep, leaves us wondering if an entirely fresh start is ever really possible.

Anton Bitel