Ever since her best friend Alistair (Matthew Beard) took his own life, Lucy (Karen Gillan) struggles to deal with it and self-medicates with copious amounts of alcohol and one-night stands.

The Party’s Just Beginning is Karren Gillan’s feature-length directorial debut and what a film to make your mark as a director and screenwriter. The direction is assured, and the script is unexpectedly both witty and moving as she tackles some sensitive topics including suicide, grief, drug abuse, rape, and the abuse of trans women.

The Party’s Just Beginning is equal parts dark and funny. The flashbacks to happier times when Alistair was alive and how sweet and genuine their friendship was is bittersweet as slowly you realise that Lucy could’ve done very little different to help them. The situations Lucy gets herself in are often of her own making but it’s usually because she has no other outlet to express how she’s feeling about Alistair’s death and how she’s struggling to cope. It’s deeply moving as Lucy struggles to find someone that will listen to her and allow her the time and space to open up. The moments she does find someone to form a connection with are fleeting and when they are taken away from her, she often begins to spiral again.

Windows play a big part in The Party’s Just Beginning. Lucy sits alone staring out of her bedroom window at the houses opposite where she can see seemingly happy families getting on with their lives. Likewise, she often finds herself standing outside of her own home watching as her parents entertain friends in the living room and even when she’s involved with that, she’s not truly a part of it. She does not feel a part of the world surrounding her and through her grief, she doesn’t understand how other people can be so happy all the time.

Karen Gillan gives a powerhouse of a performance as Lucy. While the catalyst of her actions is the death of her friend, this is her story. She is constantly the sounding board for her friends and family around her and has very little opportunity to receive support herself. The Party’s Just Beginning must be commended by showing such a messy and human side to grief. At one point Lucy blames Alistair for taking their own life as that’s led to what she’s going through but then immediately apologies because she knows they were hurting too and she can’t just blame them for everything. Lucy doesn’t act as she “should” when dealing with her grief and that leads to her being so lonely and angry and guilty about everything.

The Party’s Just Beginning is a dark film with some black humour about death and loss. Gillan’s performance allows you to see how Lucy is hurting even as she puts on a front and becomes almost an unlikeable person as she tries to shut out the pain, while she also shows off a sharp and distinct visual style when it comes to filmmaking.

Rating: ★★★★

Blue Finch Film Releasing presents The Party‘s Just Beginning in cinemas 1 December and on-demand 11 December

Directed by: Karen Gillan
Written by: Karen Gillan
Starring: Karen Gillan. Lee Pace, Matthew Beard, Siobhan Redmond