SFF 2016 Review: Cuckold

Cuckold (Sydney Film Festival)

Cuckold posterA South African tale of an unconventional love triangle is perpetually on the cusp of going somewhere.

Smanga (played by the film’s writer director Charlie Vundla) is not a likeable character. When he’s introduced, he is at the bottom end of an alcoholic, self-destructive cycle as the result of his wife Laura (Terry Pheto, Tsotsi) leaving him for another man. His inability to move on gives the audience plenty of opportunities to witness his self-loathing, through prolonged shots of a sedentary Smanga in his underwear drinking from the bottle. There is no sense of urgency to the narrative, not even when a man claiming to be an old schoolmate, Jon (Louis Roux), enters his world as a “life coach.” From here there’s a constant sense that CUCKOLD is building to something, either between the two men or between Smanga and Laura’s new beau. Yet when his ex-wife returns, the triptych of Smanga/Laura/Jon form an awkward threesome, but even this simply wallows in the same nihilistic pattern that the rest of the film does. Shot in a straightforward fashion on a shoestring budget, the deliberate pace and repetitive scenery and lack of goal is perhaps the point, the suggestion being that no good can come of this cycle now.  While CUCKOLD might shoot for being a critique of male entitlement, it lands on being a lingering examination of it, and they are definitely not the same thing. The genuinely tense scenes come in the last moments of the film, never giving the viewer the satisfaction of a resolution, and we are left only with a hint of what that embedded entitlement might lead to.

2015 | South Africa | DIR: Charlie Vundla | WRITERS: Charlie Vundla | CAST: Terry Pheto, Louis Roux, Charlie Vundla | DISTRIBUTOR: Sydney Film Festival (AUS) | RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes | RATING:★★★ (6/10)