There is only one name that springs to my mind whenever anyone discusses who they believe is the greatest director of all-time, and that name is Alfred Hitchcock. There is a subtlety and nuance to how Hitch approached each film – even his lesser works – that many attempt to duplicate, yet very few can truly emulate. It’s difficult to explain his technique to the uninitiated, but if you are a film buff of any sort, I promise you have witnessed his influence. He’s such a lauded filmmaker that even a hint of his handiwork garners it’s own specific genre label: Hitchcockian. It’s a stamp overused in popular critiques, but one I use particularly sparingly, as very few artists even grasp what this ideology truly represents. For me, it serves as the ultimate compliment.
B&B begins with a catch-up of the past. Marc and Fred (Tom Bateman and Sean Teale) are a gay couple returning to a bed-and-breakfast after a lengthy court battle with the establishment’s Christian owner, Josh (Paul McGann). A year prior, Josh refused them a bed and now, Marc and Fred have returned to rub his nose in it.
The weekend starts off innocent enough as Josh is subjected to Marc’s incessant taunts and proverbial victory lap, all while Fred befriends Josh’s son, Paul (Callum Woodhouse), a young man with a few daddy issues of his own. When a mysterious Russian stranger holes up for the night, Marc and Fred fear a local retaliation for their arrogance. As the two investigate further, they slowly realize there is a much deadlier game afoot.
Walk into the rest of the film blind, because B&B emerges as one of the most riveting thrillers of the year.
If you are concerned that the film devolves into little more than a PSA for equality, you can check those worries at the heavenly gate. Gay rights are ingrained in the story, as is respect for those with opposing beliefs, but B&B establishes very early on that its primary objective is entertainment. With a look that laughs in the face of its miniscule budget, B&B is a tense steamrolling of events harkening back to classic Hitchcock. What’s more, writer-director Joe Ahearne masterfully utilizes these hot-button talking points to his film’s advantage by weaving them deeply within the narrative. Regardless of where you land on this particular debate, Ahearne finds you a place of familiar resonance somewhere along the way.
Each actor in the film delivers, but the trio of tremendous performances from Bateman, Teale and McGann truly allows Ahearne’s fiction to shine. Bateman bounces from scene to scene with a mischievous glee as Marc lords his triumph over Josh, while McGann desperately attempts to affirm his beliefs and maintain his composure, all while abiding by the law’s decree. The interplay between these two men as they each try to steamroll the other into acceptance of their respective point-of-view is a captivating exchange, proven even more impressive by how skillfully they batted my aligned loyalty between them around like a cat toy. In between the sparring, Teale wears the film’s genuine semblance of humility and decency as Fred prefers empathy to yet another battle with a defeated opponent.
Thrillers often subscribe to the paint-by-numbers approach of genre filmmaking: throw a couple of innocent yahoos into a melting pot with a random psychotic and watch the dance for survival begin. As the final act unfolded, I sat back and reflected on Joe Ahearne’s film with a smirk. This was a tale of flawed everymen on both sides of the counter. It presented relatable characters in an extraordinary situation surrounded by seemingly insurmountable odds, with more than a few surprises. Most importantly, I was on the edge-of-my-seat for each and every second of it.
Ultimately, there is no doubt in my mind. B&B is a film Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of.
Starring Tom Bateman, Paul McGann and Sean Teale
Written by Joe Ahearne
Directed by Joe Ahearne