"Stuck in-between a series of different genres with the issue of not being able to work out exactly which one it belongs within..."

British cinema is generally renowned for specialising in two types of film; the comedy and the gritty drama. Therefore it's refreshing to see in Elfie Hopkins a stylistic film noir approach, most commonly associated with Hollywood. Although despite the creative intentions, sadly for first time director Ryan Andrews, it's an approach perhaps best left to the Americans.

Set in a rural village in the middle of nowhere, we follow the ambitious and investigative Elfie Hopkins (Jaime Winstone), who alongside her best friend Dylan Parker (Aneurin Barnard) attempt to play detective and seek out their fellow villagers, merely to pass the time and give the bored pair something to do other than smoke marijuana.

Yet when new neighbours the Gammons move in next door, their quite odd and elaborate style proves a peculiarity to Elfie, who is convinced they are worth investigating. And as villagers start going missing after organising holidays through the Gammon family, Elfie has more on her hands than she had bargained for, as she soon realises she is dealing with a family of notorious cannibals. But given their track record, will anyone actually believe Hopkins and Parker are genuinely right about what appears to be merely another idealistic investigation? 

There is quite a unique and expatiated style implemented within the film, almost taking on the guise of a fairy tale, as Andrews certainly proves to be somewhat of a creative force in what is his debut production, clearly influenced by the work of filmmakers such as Tim Burton. Such a stylistic approach also allows for the film to go down the fantastical route, and somewhat absurd finale seems fitting in regards to its setting, as the vibrant and cartoon-like aesthetic means the audience don't feel the need to question the film's realism and authenticity.

It's the visual experience which is Elfie Hopkins’ greatest aspect, as Andrews’ former work as a production designer proves dividend. From Elfie's clothes to the overstated outfits of the Gammon family, when set against the quite vibrant and flamboyant backdrop, it's a feature that certainly looks the part. 

Such a setting works as the perfect complement to the film noir edge, a sentiment enhanced by the fact Elfie and Mr. Gammon (Rupert Evans) discuss Chinatown, with other references to films such as Double Indemnity and The Maltese Falcon. Yet within classic film noirs such as those mentioned, much is reliant on a strong supporting cast of intriguing characters, whereas in Elfie Hopkins there is little depth to the supporting characters, particularly the Gammons who would certainly benefit from being far more freakish and sadistic. Take Double Indemnity for example, arguably the most intriguing character of all is Barton Keyes, depicted wonderfully by Edward G. Robinson, in what is merely a supporting role. Even Ray Winstone in a cameo role as the local butcher Bryn is highly superfluous and uninteresting.

Yet the one character who does have some identity is Elfie herself. Winstone has an abrasive attitude (and an, erm... North London accent) which really suits her role, and makes the character quite cool. Yet there does feel like too much of a contrived attempt to make her appear 'cool' - such as the clothes that she wears, the music she listens to and the posters on her wall.

Also, Elfie is supposed to be a rural girl, and her idleness and boredom which transpires from living in such a small village is a very important theme to the story, yet Winstone has basically taken her character from Kidulthood and placed it within a agricultural setting. Her never-say-die attitude and determination certainly suit the role but she has failed to encapsulate the small town characteristics, something that recent British flick Albatross got spot on, for example.

Andrews must however be applauded for his endeavour to create something original, and there are certainly aspects to the film which work very well. I desperately wanted to enjoy it as I was intrigued by the premise and the visual experience which Andrews offers the audience, but regrettably it quite simply doesn't work.

Elfie Hopkins fails to make you laugh, cry, or feel tense - stuck in-between a series of different genres with the issue of not being able to work out exactly which one it belongs within. I am, however, genuinely looking forward to Andrews' second feature film as he is certainly not one to disregard, not just yet.