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Sky Peals review – eerie tale of lost souls at the service station

Venice film festival: Moin Hussain’s arresting debut feature about an alienated night-shift worker turns the humble service station into a nightmarish modern limbo

“Do you ever feel that you’re in the wrong place?” asks Adam, the doleful hero of Moin Hussain’s debut film. “Like, if this is the place you were meant to end up?” Adam might conceivably be talking about life in the Sky Peals Green service station, where he works the night shift in a fast-food establishment, but his question goes wider; it’s the existential full house. His troubled dad, after all, believed himself to be an alien from outer space. Under the eerie lights of the station, Adam has started to wonder if he might be one as well.

Premiering in the critics’ week section here in Venice, Hussain’s creepy, distinctive British feature wrings the maximum mileage from its location, conjuring a liminal no man’s land where everyone is merely passing through (“Enjoy the rest of your journey,” reads the slogan by the main door). Adam is mixed-race, born to a white English mother and a father from Pakistan, and the film is best read as a pointed meditation on racial and cultural identity, dressed up as a kind of emo SF tale. Its inhabitants wander the corridors like sleepwalkers. Nobody is quite talking to anybody else.

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