trap_for_cinderella_posterWriter/director Iain Softley’s new film, Trap for Cinderella, is less of the thriller the trailer implies and more of a psychological mystery. In the opening moments, a young woman leaps from the second story window of an old English estate. As she plunges to the hard ground below, an explosion rips through the house – a ball of flame that badly burns her face. The cause of this explosion and the true identity of the woman are the mystery that slowly unravels throughout the course of the film.

After extensive plastic surgery, the woman is revealed to be Micky (Tuppence Middleton), a London photographer who is also heir to a vast fortune. She only knows her name because her dead aunt’s secretary, Julia (Kerry Fox), tells her so. Micky has amnesia. She returns to London with Julia and tries to piece back together the life she had before the horrible accident. Micky doesn’t trust Julia, fearing that the woman has some ulterior motive. So Micky heads off on her own, finding her old flat and digging through the past. What she learns is that she had a friend living with her, a woman named Do (Alexandra Roach), who left a diary detailing how she came into Micky’s life, and this begins the first part of solving the mystery at the core of the film.

Do and Micky were friends as little girls. A terrible family secret ripped them apart and they never saw each other again until a fateful afternoon when Do, working as a banker, happens to see bohemian Micky walk on by. It’s a bit of a stretch that these two would recognize each other after something like 15 years, but it’s a movie so you have to go with it. The two opposites pick up their friendship where it left off, like long-lost sisters. Do gets lured into Micky’s crazy lifestyle and soon moves in with her. We watch Do fall in love with her old friend, although they never consummate the relationship. For a while I thought the film was going to veer into territory mined by Single White Female, but it’s nothing like that. Middleton is excellent as Micky. In the past, Micky’s so in control of her life and the dominant person in just about every relationship she’s in. After the accident, Micky is confused and scared, yet that independent streak she has is ever present, as she gets to the bottom of what happened at the estate and what happened to Do. Middleton plays both sides of this character with depth and clarity.

As Do, Roach is does a nice job capturing the wide eyed naiveté of her character, then slowly reveals a dark side, as Do pines for Micky. Fox is the heavy in the movie, and she seems to be having fun with a character none of us can trust.

I haven’t seen many of Softley’s films, so I can’t tell you whether he’s at the top of his game or not. However, in Trap for Cinderella (a title I don’t get), he deftly leads the viewer on a slick, intriguing ride that never loses momentum. The film is beautiful to watch, the music choices were touching and captured the essence of each scene (especially the montages). Based on the book by Sebastien Japrisot, Softley’s script weaves in and out of the past and present, using different points of view (Do’s diary, Julia’s recollections and a last minute twist that gives the film a kick) and effective imagery to make this modern noir film a treat to watch.

Trap for Cinderella is currently in select theaters and streaming on SundanceNow.

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