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A Review of Sally Potter's The Party (2017)

Written by
Amelia Takacs
and
and
November 29, 2023
A Review of Sally Potter's The Party (2017)
Photo coutesy of Adventure Pictures and Picture House Entertainment.

For all my fellow cinematic fanatics who are searching for films that fall in the common ground between aesthetic, academic, and enticing, take a moment to engage with this enigmatic film. Beginning at the end, as all good things do, the viewer sees an enraged woman answer a knock at the door, gun in hand. What exactly led to this is a convoluted moment can only be described as an “unfortunate series of events.”  

Directed and written by Sally Potter, The Party (2017) is a vivid black-and-white film, set in suburban London. Getting an inside view of a “small celebration” for the character of Janet, and her recent political success, the audience watches as each member of the cast arrives, bringing more than just their congratulations. 

As the film begins, we see Janet fulfilling her traditional feminine hostess role as she works to prepare dinner whilst her partner Bill sits, forlorn, in the living room, drinking copious amounts of red wine and playing a pristine set of vinyl records. Those to first appear at the party are April and her painfully irritating, overly optimistic boyfriend Gottfried. April, in an effort to quickly distance herself from Gottfried, joins Janet in the kitchen for congratulations. Gottfried, on the other hand, makes use of his time to reinforce Bill’s, already apparent, existential crisis. 

April, in my personal opinion, would be the likely recipient of fan favouritism. She stands on the fine line between realism and pessimistic attitudes and spends the evening making slighted comments or expressing continual discontent with the guest list. Consequently, for each guest April has something to say. The next to arrive is Martha, holding a convoluted history and a contemporary discontent with her present life. She is followed shortly thereafter by her partner Jenny, bringing news of her own. Pulling an unimpressed Martha aside, Jenny informs Martha they are expecting, not just one or two but three children. 

The baby bomb, however, is not publically dropped until the last arriving guest is present. The final cast member to make an appearance is Tom. Evidently not overly welcome, Tom is the husband of the elusive Marianne, he appears at the door jittery and stressed; Tom spends the entire evening assuring  the others that Marianne is arriving late. Tom’s tone and continual use of powdered drugs, coupled with the reemerging presence of his handgun, operate as not-so-subtle hints that he is at the party for more than one reason. With the arrival of all guests, the reference to personal ‘news’, and continued underlying political connotations, The Party engages viewers with a raw sense of collective tension.  

Without giving any spoilers, this film, The Party, portrays vivid forms of betrayal and one of the most likely reasons for murder; consistent affairs. With characters driven by the innate human desire for power, the plot is simply dialogue. Still, as is generally known, much can be said even in a few quick minutes. Everything from screenplay to selective music choice is utilized with a specific purpose; the result is a riveting representation of comedic tragedy.

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