Taglines: When the worst of men hides in a family with no history.
Tom (Freddie Cunliffe), an alienated 15 year old boy, finds the that opportunity for close observation of his father, after their move from London to rural Devon and the birth of a new baby, reveals a world run through with darkness and pain. Tom is unable to reconcile the life he’s known what he sees with his own eyes, and blames his 18 year old sister, Jessie (Lara Belmont). Both Tom and Jessie struggle to find some path to truth and sanity as the human forces around them work in polarity with their isolation to either assist them, or destroy them.
The War Zone is a 1999 British drama film written by Alexander Stuart, directed by Tim Roth in his directorial debut, and starring Ray Winstone, Tilda Swinton, Lara Belmont and Freddie Cunliffe. The film is based on Stuart’s 1989 novel of the same name and takes a blunt look at incest and sexual violence in an English family.
About the Story
15-year-old Tom (Freddie Cunliffe) is upset after his family move from London to a rural house in Devon, where he misses his friends. He lives with Dad (Ray Winstone), 18-year-old sister Jessie (Lara Belmont), and Mum (Tilda Swinton), who is in the late stages of pregnancy. Tom and Jessie are close to each other and everyone helps Mum during her pregnancy.
One night, Mum goes into labour and is driven to the hospital by Dad, accompanied by Tom and Jessie. The car crashes, but nobody is injured and a baby girl is born to much joy around the family. While coming home from shopping with Mum, Tom tells her he doesn’t know anybody, but she assures him that he will make friends. When they arrive home, Tom enters the house through the backdoor and something catches his attention.
Tom confronts Jessie and asks about what he saw: Dad and Jessie, naked in a bathtub together. Jessie acts as if nothing happened, but he is definite about what he witnessed. The family go out to a bar and Jessie introduces Tom to her boyfriend Nick (Colin Farrell). The three go out to a beach and engage in awkward conversation. After returning home Tom tells Jessie he suspects her and dad’s behaviour has been ongoing. Jessie neither confirms or denies this causing Tom to lash out in anger.
Later on, Dad tells Mum and Tom he is going for a run. Full of suspicion and armed with a video camera, Tom follows Dad and Jessie into an old war bunker on their ocean-side property to film them. Filming through a hole in the wall he witnesses Dad raping Jessie. Tom walks off and, devastated, throws the camera into the sea.
Tom accuses Jessie of being sick because of her actions with their father. Jessie lets him burn her breast with a lighter in order to make him feel better. Later she takes Tom on a trip to London to see her friend Carol (Aisling O’Sullivan) who attempts to seduce him at Jessie’s behest, but stops when she walks in on them.
One night, Tom is woken up by Mum, who tells him there is a problem with the baby and they must go to the hospital. At the hospital, Dad and Jessie go home, leaving Tom with Mum and the baby. Tom decides to tell Mum what he saw but becomes scared. Mum takes Tom to see the baby, who is bleeding. He tells Mum never to let Dad near the baby. Before she can respond, he leaves.
When Tom returns home, Dad tells him that Mum called from the hospital and told him what Tom had said to her. While Dad confronts him, Jessie begins crying. Dad asks Tom why he would lie to the family, but Tom says he is telling the truth. Dad demands to know why he said such horrible things about him. Jessie sobs at the table, while Dad shouts at and hits Tom for trying to break up the family. Dad then leaves.
The War Zone (1999)
Directed by: Tim Roth
Starring: Ray Winstone, Tilda Swinton, Lara Belmont, Freddie Cunliffe, Colin Farrell, Aisling O’Sullivan, Megan Thorp, Kate Ashfield, Annabelle Apsion
Screenplay by: Alexander Stuart
Production Design by: Michael Carlin
Cinematography by: Seamus McGarvey
Film Editing by: Trevor Waite
Costume Design by: Mary-Jane Reyner
Art Direction by: Karen Wakefield
Music by: Simon Boswell
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, some involving molestation, and for nudity, language and a scene of violence.
Distributed by: Lot 47 Films
Release Date: December 10, 1999