The Fare (2018)


Written by:
Starring: , ,

Directed by D.C. Hamilton

Awkward chats with the cab driver are a fixture of the Great British Nights Out: “what time did you start?” “What time do you end?” “You been busy?” “Could you turn the volume up” etc. Still, there must be times when it goes differently, the partition comes down and customers bond or even strike up a meaningful connection with the stranger behind the wheel. It’s possible they may even become soul mates. Such a scenario provides the basic premise behind director D.C. Hamilton’s second feature: an interesting and sci-fi adjacent twist on Before Sunrise meets Groundhog Day.

Meet Harris (Pesi): he’ll be your driver for the next 90 minutes. On a dull night, he drives to the arse end of nowhere to take a woman named Penny, “like the coin”, (Kelly) further into the arse end of nowhere. He picks her up, and they start talking – first about car games (count the green lights), then her job (she says she teaches strippers) and even old comic book artists. As it seems they’re getting on a storm approaches them, and seconds later she’s gone: completely vanished. Confused, and with nothing else to do, he resets his meter and inexplicably brings himself back to an earlier point when he was just about to pick Penny up. They go through a similar conversation again, only this time they crash when it looks like they’re about to reset. As they briefly touch hands, he remembers the previous time they made this journey, even if it’s as vague as remembering a dream. The eight-minute cycle begins again and again. So begins an enjoyable, often lyrical existential-romance, that almost all happens in the same car on the same neverending road.

Obviously, with such a minimalist set-up, the success or failure of this film rests heavily on the chemistry of our two leading characters. Sure, the technical aspects matter a lot, and the innovative use of colour schemes, along with the often soaring soundtrack, are huge assets. But for any film that’s 99% a two-hander, it’s really about the leads. Inevitably they’re going to be spending a lot of time with each other, and we’re going to be spending a lot of time with them. Aside from effective scare one sequence, where Harris keeps driving down the endless stretch of tarmac, there aren’t notable any set pieces. Fortunately, both are enjoyable enough company for the trip, and though the film is ostensibly a mystery, I like that it also takes the time to personalise them for the first half. Some of their dialogue is functional, like when they advance the story by discussing the cycle they seem to be caught in. Though the movie is at its best when they’re hanging out. Like when they’re goofing around having in a fun montage, or if we learn about their personal lives.

For, as per the outlandish situation they find themselves in, both are as trapped and lost outside the cab as they are in it. In that respect, this repetitive back and forth with just each other, for what seems like an eternity, maybe the best thing that could have happened to them. Frustratingly, the real meat of their relationship is often depicted as shallow, with the script being more at home with them exchanging barbs and banter than baring their soul. Nonetheless, there’s enough intimacy that I could see how they find a sense of connection in each other that they lack elsewhere. That it’s a romance, albeit an unconventional one, may put people off. But given how sharp the script is I reckon it’ll generate enough goodwill to make you care. I know I was definitely still emotionally invested in what happened to them, like if they’d break the cycle or if they’d get together, despite how aspects of their journey were mishandled. Particularly later on.

That thing about mysteries is that they can’t just be left open: they’re there to be solved. The Fare is no exception and gives us a fairly concrete explanation. Sadly it was one I anticipated very early on – and I’m not usually good at guessing this kind of thing. Heck, it’s maybe one a lot of you have figured just from reading from my review. I’m often ok with predictability and would struggle to be a slasher fan if I weren’t. Still, I think it’s different for stories that intentionally raise questions though – as this one does – or base their narrative around an impossible situation. In The Fare, the predictability makes the second half less engaging than the first. To writer Brinna Kelly’s credit, she explores the concept well by introducing it in the second act rather than as a 30-second flashback montage towards the end. Her writing is also layered, in that dialogue we thought was just incidental earlier may become thematically relevant late on, or provide a smart parallel – some of the allusions give the otherwise understated piece a slightly epic quality. However, there’s no hiding that the movie’s final destination is one you’ll have seen coming. It’s still a decent ride though.

Rating: ★★★½☆

THE FARE arrives on Blu-Ray and VOD November 19th from Epic Pictures and DREAD.

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About david.s.smith 451 Articles
Scottish horror fan who is simultaneously elitist and hates genre snobbery. Follow me on @horrorinatweet

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