Plot: Carl (Toby Jones) is a quiet, introverted man who lives a quiet, introverted life, he hasn’t even had a date in well over a decade. This is due in part to a stint in prison, but also because of his own reserved nature. But the ease of online dating has opened a door for him, so he takes a risk and lines up his first date in a long while. He is nervous and feels awkward, but his neighbor has loaned him a fancier shirt to wear, so at least he won’t look plain. Abby (Sinead Matthews) is the woman he found online and she is quite a contrast to Carl, an energetic, vibrant woman who seems keen to have a good time in whatever ways possible. The date is awkward to say the least and it soon takes a darker turn, though even Carl seems unsure of what happened. But things only become more unraveled in the days that follow, when Carl’s domineering mother arrives and awakens some unpleasant elements in her son.
Entertainment Value: Kaleidoscope is a dark, but subtle psychological drama about isolation, loneliness, and dysfunction. Toby Jones is the lead and is on screen in almost all of the film’s duration, so his performance was going to make or break this one. I think he nails the role, though that should come as no surprise, given his resume of excellent work. Jones was an ideal choice for Carl, as he has that vulnerable, yet unnerved kind of presence the role demands. If the role was played slightly to one extreme or the other, it wouldn’t have worked, but Jones hits that perfect balance between sympathetic and at times, sinister. I also really liked Sinead Matthews as his free spirited date and of course, Anne Reid is fantastic as his mother, Aileen. I think how Carl interacts with these two very different women is so interesting and with such skilled performances, those scenes unfold in terrific fashion. The slow pace might turn some folks off, but the movie never eases up on tension or atmosphere. The deliberate pace allows the movie to slowly get under your skin and keep you on edge, unsure of what the truth is and what these people are capable of. This is one of the movies that lingers in your mind after the credits, which is a real compliment. I found Kaleidoscope to be a well crafted, effective thriller that genre fans should appreciate.
No nakedness. There’s a quite awkward scene when Carl crawls into bed at one point, but no real sexual content in this one. The movie involves some bursts of tension and violence, but not much bloodshed. The violence is brief and non graphic, but effective, thanks to the well crafted atmosphere and performances. The dialogue is well written, with some great awkward and creepy moments, especially when Carl has to interact with his date or his mother. Not wild or overly memorable lines perhaps, but some fun stuff to be found here. I liked how atmosphere and tension were more of a focus than dialogue, however. On the craziness scale, Jones’ performance is unsettling and the movie plays some tricks on your brain, but it still feels grounded and never runs off the deep end. So an eerie and psychologically tense ride to be sure, but not an off the rails kind of madness.
Overall Insanity: 3/10