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Are you in the mood for a dashing and mysteriously alluringly romantic heist film? Who wouldn’t be because what’s not to love about that? Marmalade is the saucy and amorous film in question; the debut film from director/writer Keir O’Donnell which aims to seduce you with its enchanting aroma of comedy, action, and a quirky little love story between two lost souls on the edge of society, or so you may think at least. Featuring Joe Keery in the lead as the introverted Baron, opposite the seductress that is Camila Morrone in her best performance yet as the free-willed titular character, Marmalade. This loveable duo will take you on a wild ride around a sleepy southern town, but will their aspirations of a new life find them stuck in an unfortunate jam?


Recently incarcerated, Baron strikes up a friendship with his new cellmate, a man with a history of prison breaks. As they hatch a plan to escape, Baron recalls how he met the love of his life and how they came up with a scheme to rob a bank.


It all begins with the arrest of Baron (Keery), a peculiar fella in his 20s, with a distinct southern twang and a glorious head of hair that he refuses to cut for anyone, even if it does cost him his job at the post office. Baron quickly moves through the various stages of prison entry before meeting his new cellmate, Otis (Aldis Hodge), and it’s not long before the “What you in here for” question is muttered by the latter. Baron, in need of a quick escape so he can return to his beloved Marmalade (Morrone) strikes up a bargain with Otis, a prison break master, to help free Baron in return for a hefty quarter of a million in cash - who could turn that down? The only thing is though, Otis must sit through Baron’s very detailed and incredibly long story of how he met Marmalade and ended up imprisoned, but thankfully for us, this story delivers the film’s best moments.


During several flashbacks, Baron retells the tale of how he met the illuminating Marmalade while caring for his dying mother as he struggles to pay the extortionate new price of her meds. Marmalade arrives at the perfect time – while running away from her own countless struggles – as she offers Baron hope and adds some excitement into his life during the lowest point. His monotonous life in this desolate town quickly embraces the pace of Marmalade, and the two begin to forge a relationship, and eventually, fall in love. But it all seems too good to be true, surely. Marmalade begins to manipulate Baron into doing as she says, and what she says is to rob a bank so they can pay for his mother’s meds before jetting off into the sun. This modern-day Bonnie and Clyde have it all figured out it seems, but that’s not how these stories tend to end, is it now?

The relationship between the two is in the modern-classic vein: the lonely and shy young man falls for this mysterious woman; this idyllic girl of his dreams, whimsical in nature and the complete extroverted opposite. Think Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, or even True Romance for relationships that harness similar tones to Marmalade's and Baron’s – it might be unexpected, but it’s one so sweet and cutesy that you cannot help but root for them in their quest for quick riches. This isn’t the only relationship being explored though because Otis also begins to show affection for his nerdy new padmate, even if there are some ulterior motives at play, and you can tell Aldis Hodge is having tonnes of fun in the role as well.


Keery and Morrone are the standout performances though, especially Keery. He's fantastic as the bumbling, naïve local boy who becomes enamoured by his vibrant opposite, before changing into a cool and confident alter-ego during the second of the film’s two twists. Morrone’s character is the polar opposite of her partner, but the combination of the two is a big factor in why this dynamic works so seamlessly. Without chemistry, this sort of film cannot work, it has no essence. The story alone can only get you so far, and for large parts of the film, the narrative is laboured (for good reason might I add) so the two protagonists carry it through these moments.

The location is a character itself, and the cinematography works with the set design to create something ideal for the setting's portrayal on screen. It uses a lovely little pastel aesthetic as its primary colour scheme. At the same time, Polly Morgan captures the mundanity in her camera work by keeping it cute and simple, something that marries up well with the colours to create a dreamlike sleepy mid-south town. When you throw it all together, it makes the entrance of Marmalade (and all her scenes that follow) that much more exciting as her own outlandish colour palette produces an effective contrast to everything else.

Marmalade is semi-serious for the most part but will turn goofy in a split second, and it’s something that can be hard to achieve, but it certainly gave it a good go. It’s just a really fun film; it sends you one way with this perfect little romance playing out before our eyes, before jinking another way with the first of the plot twists and the acceleration of the story, before another quick jolt to keep you guessing. Hopefully, we can all be in agreement for the need for more of these quirky comedic, action romance films, because they work, and you can do so much that really tests the boundaries of this genre, Marmalade experimented and mastered a few of them.


Rating Marmalade



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