“We make bad decisions in love 90% of the time.” These were the words of director Nathan Silver at Edinburgh Film Festival’s Q and A session, following the screening of his latest feature film Uncertain Terms. The director’s words speak volumes and really encapsulate what this moving study of human nature is all about. On the surface, Uncertain Terms tells the story of one man’s impact on a home for pregnant girls, when he comes to stay. At its core, Uncertain Terms is about human failure, soulful illusion and the harsh truth that so many of us decide to settle in our lives, loves and relationships. Robbie’s marriage is collapsing. He comes to stay with his Aunt and cousin in the aftermath of his wife’s recently disloyalty. Robbie has good intentions. He plans to take on mundane chores and odd-jobs in order to repay his Aunt for her hospitality. Robbie tries to distance himself from the girls that reside in his Aunt’s care. He is there to clear his head and free himself from his suffocating marriage, but when some of the girls show interest in him, and he gradually becomes more involved in their lives, Robbie starts to venture down a road of “disillusioned love”, as Nathan Silver puts it.
There is little introduction to our characters. We are plonked straight into the home of these girls. Our only time spent outside of the house is on the odd car journey. The setting of the film creates a claustrophobia, representing the suffocating situation of not just Robbie and his marriage but of these young girls, being forced into adulthood and motherhood. The film uses only ambient sound. There is no non-diegetic music at all and the film’s single inclusion of a diegetic song is one of the film’s most profound and impacting qualities. Uncertain Terms eloquently travels through a matter of weeks, studying the way that we, as a species, cling to one another and ultimately settle for second best. Like so many other films at this years festival, Uncertain Terms explores the struggles of growing up too fast. The girls all seem quite immature. Unprepared for the task of bringing up a child that lies before them. We are left with the sad impression that not all of these mothers will remain with their children. The director was inspired by his own mother’s experience as a young single mother and the subject is handled with clear knowledge and sensitivity. His actual mother plays the role of Carla, Robbie’s Aunt and carer for the soon-to-be parents. She, like the rest of the cast come off as spontaneous; soaked in naturalism and understanding. Uncertain Terms is an ambiguous but deeply thought-provoking film that gets under the skin with its realistic portrayal of the human heart and what we do, badly, in the name of love.
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