Deborah Ross

Too much photocopying but stick with it: The Assistant reviewed

Plus: the best grout drama I've seen all year

Superb: Julia Garner as Jane in The Assistant

First, the latest digital film release: The Assistant, starring Julia Garner in a slowly, slowly, catchy, catchy tale that won’t grab you from the off — I kept thinking: is anything actually going to happen? — but you must stick with it, you must. This is a film of quiet, cumulative power, which has much to say about serial sexual predators in the Harvey Weinstein mould, and how they get away with it. Or did. (Am hoping, praying, we can use the past tense now.)

Garner plays Jane, who works for a Hollywood movie mogul, and events take place over the course of a single day. She gets into the office early. She flicks on the lights. She cleans down the couch. She gulps a bowl of Froot Loops. She photocopies a script. Something will happen now, surely. But, no, it is just photocopying. However, bit by bit, via tiny snippets here and there, we start assembling a picture of her boss. She takes a phone call from his wife. She has to deliver someone to a hotel. You start to realise why that couch needed cleaning down.

It’s the best grout drama I’ve seen this year, no question

Written and directed by Kitty Green, much of the film is wordless, with only ambient noise humming in the background, but Garner is superb at conveying her character’s increasing concern, degradation and inner conflict. Eventually, she comes face to face with the company’s head of HR, played by the terrific Matthew Macfadyen. I don’t know when this is supposed to be set, but it’s obviously prior to #MeToo. The Macfadyen character, having listened to Jane, tells her there are 400 people who would kill for her job. He has their resumés right here. So, you see how it works. (Worked?) You will, initially, want this film to get on with it — not more photocopying! — but stick with it.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in