Michael Winterbottom’s variety in his career over the last 20+ years is staggering. Like most British directors of interest who came to notice in the ’90s his background was in TV drama like Danny Boyle. His work has spanned everything from 24 Hour Party People to The Road to Guantanamo and to even a Jim Thompson adaptation The Killer Inside Me. His debut feature was the film lesbian serial killer film Butterfly Kiss which now has been re-released thanks to the good people at Fabulous Films.
Armanda Plummer plays Eunice who is a fascinating creation by screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce who has worked with Winterbottom on the majority of his films. Eunice is an eccentric lesbian who has chains wrapped around her body because she feels like she needs to be punished. She is played by Plummer with a kind of punk rock swagger. When it’s revealed at the beginning she is killing gas station attendants you almost feel like it’s her duty to due to just her presence on-screen.
Things take a turn when she meets a young Miriam (Saskia Reeves) who is lonely and naive and they take a liking to one enough. They fastly become lovers and they embark on what is essentially a riff on the lovers on the run genre but in a decidedly British way. It’s all set in desolate motorway service stations throughout Lancashire. Miriam’s psyche is challenged by the arrival of Eunice and she goes to lengths that only being manipulated by a psychopath whom you love would go.
The film certainly isn’t flawless and it certainly has the hallmarks of a debut film. Winterbottom took Waters’ advice to first time filmmakers of your first film to be dripping with sex and violence. However it ends up at times being aimless and during especially the last act the viewer somewhat looses interest and the climax isn’t as disturbing as it should be and it ends rather abruptly. The intercuts throughout of Miriam talking to an off-screen police officer recounting her story are unnecessary and could’ve been added to pad out the film’s already short running to a more commercial 84 minutes.
Despite these problems it’s a strong debut from a British filmmaker who has taken risks throughout his long career sometimes successfully and some as much. Like all of his films it boosts an eccentric soundtrack which includes Björk, PJ Harvey and New Order where one of their songs is used as a key pot point. The use of The Cranberries is however extremely annoying and dates the film horribly. The disc is completely barebones.