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‘Screwdriver’ review: Dir. Cairo Smith [Digital]

by Kat Hughes

In Screwdriver, the first-time feature length film from writer and director Cairo Smith, a recently divorced woman, finds herself trapped in an ever increasingly dangerous situation. Emily (AnnaClare Hicks) is grieving the loss of her marriage when she is invited to catch up with an old friend, Robert (Charlie Farrell). Seeing how much Emily is struggling, Robert insists that Emily stay with him and his wife Melissa (Milly Sanders) for a few days. From the outset it is clear that all is not well in the house, but the longer Emily stays, the weirder events become.

Screwdriver is a tightly wound thriller that explores coercive control in a very clever way. It is apparent from early on that Robert and Melissa have an agenda for Emily, but blinded by her grief, she does not realise until it is too late. Even then, the married couple are experts at manipulating Emily. The whole film hinges on the ever twisting dynamic between the three, and Smith does a great job at maintaining the mystery, placing the viewer on the back foot for the duration. The audience are treated to a few more snippets of information than Emily, but even then it remains puzzling and disorientating. 

Smith is careful not to give too much away, and even by Screwdriver’s finale, the intentions of everyone remain somewhat unclear. Rather than spoil the mystique by spelling out every aspect of the trio’s motives, Smith holds back, allowing the viewer to fill in the blanks for themselves however they see fit. Whilst this will not make for the most satisfying ending for those who prefer their narratives to be nicely tied up in a bow, it will encourage conversation as those watching together try to theorise the inner workings of each of the characters. 

The cast of Screwdriver are each personify their characters beautifully. Each member of this threesome has plenty to do, with no one quite as they seem; there is a duality and complexity to them all. Of the three, it is lead AnnaClare Hicks who is strongest, but primarily because she has the most screen time and goes on the biggest, and most obvious, journey. Emily changes during the film, but not necessarily for the positive. Despite this, Hicks keeps the viewer on side, making them more sympathetic to her plight if nothing else. 

A forever twisting and tightening psychological thriller, Screwdriver presents some interesting ideas and offers an intriguing representation of coercive control. Smith’s debut feature will keep the viewer guessing until well after the credits have finished, leaving them to interpret certain plot elements as they see fit. 


Kat Hughes



With a perplexing psychological mystery that Hitchcock himself would be proud of, Screwdriver is an intriguing thriller with plenty of layers to unravel.


Screwdriver is out now on Digital VOD including Prime Video, Vudu, Vubiquity, Cox, and Comcast.

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