After a devasting loss, a young woman tries to snap back into reality through a dangerous arms deal in writer-director Ryan J. Smith’s Talking to Ghosts. Nina Holland-Smith plays Ciara, who recently lost her child in utero. Time has passed, and Ciara has decided for the umpteenth time to get out of her sister’s house and be “useful” once again. Finding a typical 9-to-5 job will not be easy, so her friend Peter (Jake Waring) offers to let her be part of a “job” he’s working on.
The catch is that it’s a dangerous job. It is also slightly illegal. All they have to do is buy a gun from a mysterious dealer looking for quick cash. Hesitant yet desperate, Ciara accepts the job as she’s assured nothing will go wrong. When Ciara and Peter arrive at the given address, they discover the dealer is the famed crime novelist Joseph Skinner (Grahame Edwards). He has the gun, but thanks to an administrative mix-up, the courier with the money won’t arrive until the next day. Seeing red flags, Ciara wants to bail, but she won’t get paid, so they reluctantly stay at Skinner’s home for the night. Of course, Skinner has some secrets Ciara and Peter are unaware of. He is a crime novelist, after all.
Talking to Ghosts is a thriller in dramatic clothing. I mention this because the way the film is shot may throw you off a bit. While I hope not to let my prejudice come through, Smith’s film comes across as very British. Here in the States, thrillers build tension through suspenseful music, quick cuts, and mood lighting. Here, the thriller part of the tale plays out in dramatic fashion with no frills or usual tropes to rely on.
“When Ciara and Peter arrive…they discover the dealer is the famed crime novelist Joseph Skinner…”
In reviewing the film, the use or non-use of these tropes will stand out a lot. I appreciated the fact that the filmmaker did not rely on cinematic tricks to tell his story. However, at the same time, it could have used a trick or two. This is where I wrestle with Talking to Ghosts the most, as the film comes across more as a drama when it has psychological thriller elements to it. Ultimately, it would’ve found a good home somewhere between a drama and a thriller.
For an independent production, this is a well-crafted film with an interesting story of a crime novelist who has himself embroiled in a crime that he would have written. However, it is all about the performances. Nina Holland-Smith is the highlight. She gives an every-person performance in that this could be you or me if we were desperate for quick cash or excitement. Edwards is affable, yet creepy, as the slightly eccentric author, and Waring is equally good as the confident thug.
In the end, Ryan J. Smith has a great indie career ahead of him. Overall, his film is worth watching, but its tone is where Talking to Ghosts just falls short. The job that Ciara and Peter are on is inherently dangerous, but ultimately what’s missing is the immediate sense of peril at all times.
For more information about Talking to Ghosts, visit the Skint Film official website.