Joe Cinque’s Consolation review: Sotiris Dounoukos holds no bars when it comes to his first feature film, proving that true crime drama shouldn’t be left to cable television channels.

Joe Cinque’s Consolation review by Jazmine Sky Bradley, Toronto International Film Festival, 2016.

Joe Cinque's Consolation review

Audience’s can be quite skeptical and prematurely judgmental of anything ‘based on a true story’; I know that I am. However, every so often a film is released that totally surpasses expectations, blowing any preconceived notions out of the water. This time it’s the turn of Joe Cinque’s Consolation, director Sotiris Dounoukos‘ feature-length premiere.

  1. Australia. Joe Cinque (Jerome Meyer) and Anu Singh (Maggie Naouri) meet in a bar. They hit it off quickly and things seem to be going well. Fast-forward and Anu’s mental health issues start to come to the surface; she thinks she’s ill, she doesn’t feel like herself, her skin feels loose. Joe tries everything to get her some help, even returning to a university counsellor Anu had seen previously but seems to have no recollection of talking to. Joe seems to think that taking a holiday together will help Anu to relax, but she’s got other ideas. Unhappy in herself, her studies, her life, she plans on drugging Joe to sleep, giving her the time and space to overdose on heroin, finally escaping her internal pain. But when things don’t go to plan, Anu becomes stuck in a never-ending spiral of panic and deceit.

True crime stories can go one of two ways; a dry retelling of basic facts, or an in-depth analysis of every minute detail. Joe Cinque’s Consolation makes for a happy medium, managing to tell the tale whilst keeping the audience gripped. Well paced and beautifully shot, you can tell that a lot of thought has gone into ensuring there’s an authentic feeling to the film, that we’re not just watching a straight-to-TV family drama (with the graphic nature of the ending, it’s far from suitable for showing on Channel 5 on a weekday afternoon). Never lingering in any one scene for too long, the narrative reflects the story well – Anu wants to rush things forward and get ‘it’ over and done with.

Joe Cinque's Consolation

Maggie Naouri‘s portrayal of the damaged Anu is something not to miss, a star amongst otherwise quite wooden performances. Whilst not particularly likeable, even when she’s not trying to manipulate her boyfriend, Naouri brings a weakness, a vulnerability to Anu that others wouldn’t see. Obviously beautiful and talented, Anu is unhappy, despite her near-perfect life. This is where the manipulation begins; with her studies, the lectures she attends, her friends, and – eventually – Joe. She can’t get enough of getting her own way, but we don’t hate her, we feel sorry for her. Five stars to Naouri alone for getting the audience to feel for our antagonistic protagonist.

Overall, Joe Cinque’s Consolation is a gripping drama that makes for uncomfortable viewing. Tackling themes of mental health, instability, loyalty and suicide, Dounoukos brings to life a deeply troubling story.

Joe Cinque’s Consolation review by Jazmine Bradley, September 2016.

Joe Cinque’s Consolation will premiere at Toronto International Film Festival on 12th September 2016.