+ Q&A with director Harry Wootliff
Director’s Notes by Harry Wootliff
True Things is a cautionary tale of a destructive sexual relationship that is both complex and ordinary – a relationship so familiar to us that it’s almost a rite of passage. It is a love story of sorts, which looks at the fragility of a woman’s sense of self; at how women use relationships to explore their identity. Kate has lost a sense of who she really is, and accepted a version of herself that is shaped both by society, and by those close to her. We see how on her journey towards autonomy, she is compelled to let herself become consumed and derailed by a man, before eventually discovering self-authenticity. True Things is highly subjective and intimate and is really, fundamentally, about a woman’s relationship with herself.
Notes on the film – by Hannah McGill
Early on in True Things, soon-to-be lovers Kate (Ruth Wilson) and ‘Blond’ (Tom Burke) discuss the strange urge to jump that can strike someone looking down from a tall building. The impulse, says Blond, is ‘life-confirming’, rather than suicidal: ‘You could do it; but you don’t.’ The relationship that he and Kate are commencing will test exactly such distinctions and divisions – for her, at least. In her early thirties, Kate is at a stage of life that sees friends, family and strangers alike all powerfully invested in how responsible, respectable and future-focused she’s being. After all, a woman can’t cast about uncertainly forever… can she? ‘You need to get your priorities right,’ scolds Kate’s friend and colleague Alison (Hayley Squires), who is already raising a brood of kids. What Kate finds herself prioritising, however, is not the future hope of a nuclear family. It is the intense, intermittent attention of a man whose name she doesn’t even know.
Based on the 2010 novel True Things About Me by Deborah Kay Davies, Harry Wootliff’s follow-up to her award-winning feature debut Only You anatomises a relationship experience as commonplace as it is shrouded in denial and shame. Who hasn’t pursued a love affair that had friends and family shaking their heads in worry and disapproval? How many of us have let risk into our lives, not through naivete or coercion, but knowingly – with every sense that anguish may ensue? And which among us hasn’t, sometimes, just wanted to jump?
True Things addresses this experience from the intensely subjective viewpoint of a character who is neither victim nor dupe, but a trapped soul for whom the chance to live more vividly is too tempting to resist. What looks like degradation from the outside feels – initially, at least – like bliss. For a film to acknowledge the visceral appeal and even the value of a crude, torrid, potentially dangerous liaison is taboo. As viewers, we’re accustomed to heavy signposting: that casual sex spells danger; that the woman who goes ‘off the rails’ will face severe penalties, if she even survives; that behaving yourself is its own reward. Through dazzling performances by Ruth Wilson and Tom Burke, however, and a perceptive, witty script by Wootliff and Molly Davies, True Things invites us to consider another angle on the ‘toxic’ relationship: one from which it offers welcome relief from the well-worn grooves of what’s supposed to be good for us. What’s toxic, after all, can also be intoxicating…
Harry Wootliff here works once again with Tristan Goligher of The Bureau, whose recent productions include Harry Macqueen’s Supernova, starring Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci; Aleem Khan’s After Love, with Joanna Scanlan; and Little Joe, directed by Jessica Hausner and starring Emily Beecham and Ben Whishaw. Further headiness is added to the True Things brew by the extraordinary cinematography of rising star Ashley Connor, whose agile, inquisitive camera takes us right to the fast-beating heart of the charged relationship between Kate and Blond.
Irreverent, unpredictable and intense, True Things showcases in its lead performances the range and charisma of two of the UK’s most dynamic and appealing performers and affirms Harry Wootliff as a sharp and empathetic chronicler of the mores of modern love. Whether it lands as a warning, a reminder, or a glimpse of paths not taken, it will resonate with anyone who knows how it feels to throw caution to the winds.
Harry Wootliff is a writer and director. Her first feature film Only You (starring Laia Costa and Josh O’Connor) premiered at the 2018 London Film Festival. For Only You, she won the BIFA award for Best Debut Director, and was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Outstanding Debut.
Harry’s debut short film Nits was BAFTA-nominated and selected for Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. Her second short Trip premiered at Berlin Film Festival, won Best Short Film at Bradford International Film Festival, and was screened at 30 festivals worldwide. Harry was named as one of The Observer’s Rising Stars for Film in 2019.
Ruth Wilson is a multi-award-winning actress and producer of stage, screen and television. Described by The Guardian as a ‘courageous, edgy and compelling talent’, Wilson has become one of Britain’s most lauded artists. This year she was awarded an MBE for services to Drama.
Wilson’s first major TV role in the BBC’s 2006 miniseries Jane Eyre earned her a BAFTA and Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. Subsequent television performances include Mrs Coulter in the BBC/HBO His Dark Materials; Alison Bailey in Showtime’s The Affair, for which she won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama Series in 2015; and Alice Morgan in Luther. In 2019 she was BAFTA-nominated for her performance as her own grandmother in the BBC miniseries, Mrs Wilson, which she also executive produced.
Film performances have seen Wilson work with a range of directors including Lenny Abrahamson, Gore Verbinski, Joe Wright, John Cameron Mitchell and Steven Knight. For Dark River, directed by Clio Barnard, Wilson received a BIFA Best Actress nomination. Most recently she appeared in the Emmy-nominated HBO film Oslo, directed by Bartlett Sher and produced by Steven Spielberg and Marc Platt.
Wilson is a mainstay on the London and Broadway stages and the recipient of three Olivier Award nominations and two Tony Award nominations. Most recently, the Broadway production of King Lear saw her play both Cordelia and The Fool opposite Glenda Jackson. In 2013 Wilson made her debut as a theatre director with The El Train, a series of Eugene O’Neill one-act plays performed at Hoxton Hall.
In 2020 Wilson set up her production company, Lady Lazarus. True Things is the first film to be made under the Lady Lazarus umbrella. Other projects include TV and film productions in partnership with HBO and The Ink Factory.
Tom Burke was most recently seen in Netflix’s highly acclaimed series The Crown, opposite Helena Bonham Carter, and as Orson Welles in David Fincher’s Oscar-nominated feature Mank. Prior to that, he played the lead role of Anthony in Joanna Hogg’s feature The Souvenir, which won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic at Sundance 2019 and for which he was nominated for a BIFA and a Critics’ Circle Award for Best Actor. Other recent credits include onstage as John Rosmer in Rosmerholm, The Deep Blue Sea at The National Theatre; the BBC mini-series War and Peace; and as Athos in The Musketeers also for the BBC. Upcoming releases include the independent feature Klokkenluider; Sky’s Extinction opposite Paapa Essiedu; and Alan Moore’s The Show. Tom is currently filming Sebastian Lelio’s The Wonder opposite Florence Pugh for Netflix, and will shortly be seen reprising his role as Cormoran Strike in the next instalment of JK Rowling’s acclaimed series for the BBC, opposite Holliday Grainger.
Directed by: Harry Wootliff
©: BBC, The British Film Institute, True Things Films Ltd
A production from: Lady Lazarus, Riff Raff UK, The Bureau
Presented by: BBC Films, BFI
Executive Producers: Rose Garnett, Eva Yates, Lizzie Francke, Vincent Gadelle
Produced by: Tristan Goligher, Ruth Wilson, Ben Jackson, Jude Law
Line Producer: Eimhear McMahon
Production Co-ordinator: Elena Santamaria
Production Accountant: Habib Rahman
Location Manager: Ben Lee
Post-production Supervisor: Gerardine O’Flynn
1st Assistant Director: Anthony Wilcox
2nd Assistant Director: Iain Atkinson
Script Supervisor: Sara J. Doughty
Casting Director: Kahleen Crawford
Written by: Harry Wootliff, Molly Davies
Based on the book True Things About Me by: Deborah Kay Davies
Director of Photography: Ashley Connor
Steadicam Operators: Stamos Triantafyllo, Henry Landgrebe, Svetlana Miko
1st Assistant Camera: Dave Pearce
2nd Assistant Camera: Piotr Perliński, Ania Bahadrian
VFX by: Ghost VFX UK
Special Effects: SPFX Ltd.
Editor: Tim Fulford
Production Designer: Andy Drummond
Art Director: David Jennings
Costume Designer: Matthew Price
Hair & Make-up Supervisor: Ang Oxley-Evans
Hair & Make-up Designer: Nadia Stacey
Hair & Make-up Supervisor: Anna Morena
Main Titles by: Alphabet
End Roller by: Endcrawl
Composer: Alex Baranowski
Music Supervisor: Connie Farr
Production Sound Mixers: William Whale, Steve Haywood
Sound Re-recording Mixer: Per Boström
Supervising Sound Editor: Joakim Sundström
Stunt Co-ordinator: Paul Heasman
Ruth Wilson (Kate)
Tom Burke (Blond)
Hayley Squires (Alison)
Elizabeth Rider (mum)
Frank McCusker (dad)
Ann Firbank (Nan)
Tom Weston Jones (Rob)
Nathan Ampofo (Gavin)
Michael Moreland (David)
Charlie Heptinstall (young man)
Gledys Ibarra (care worker)
Joshua Sinclair-Evans (party man 1)
Jordan John (party man 2)
Arthur Cull (man on beach)
Alice Snow (kitchen demonstrator)
Courtesy of Picturehouse Entertainment and actor Ruth Wilson_
Woman with a Movie Camera is powered by Jaguar and generously supported by Jane Stanton
IN PERSON & PREVIEWS
Hive+ pre-recorded Q&A with filmmakers
Tue 8 Mar 18:15
TV Preview: Gentleman Jack Series 2 + Q&A with writer Sally Wainwright and actors Suranne Jones and Sophie Rundle
Wed 9 Mar 18:10
GFF International Women’s Day Gala: Happening (L’evenement) + Pre-recorded Q&A with Director Audrey Diwan
Wed 9 Mar 20:40
TV Preview: Inside No. 9 + Q&A with creators Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, and executive producer Adam Tandy
Fri 11 Mar 20:40
GFF Closing Gala: Murina
Sun 13 Mar 19:00
Welcome to the home of great film and TV, with three cinemas and a studio, a world-class library, regular exhibitions and a pioneering Mediatheque with 1000s of free titles for you to explore. Browse special-edition merchandise in the BFI Shop.We're also pleased to offer you a unique new space, the BFI Riverfront – with unrivalled riverside views of Waterloo Bridge and beyond, a delicious seasonal menu, plus a stylish balcony bar for cocktails or special events. Come and enjoy a pre-cinema dinner or a drink on the balcony as the sun goes down.
BECOME A BFI MEMBER
Enjoy a great package of film benefits including priority booking at BFI Southbank and BFI Festivals. Join today at bfi.org.uk/join
We are always open online on BFI Player where you can watch the best new, cult & classic cinema on demand. Showcasing hand-picked landmark British and independent titles, films are available to watch in three distinct ways: Subscription, Rentals & Free to view.
See something different today on player.bfi.org.uk
Join the BFI mailing list for regular programme updates. Not yet registered? Create a new account at www.bfi.org.uk/signup
Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
Questions/comments? Contact the Programme Notes team by email