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“7 Keys” Review: Emma McDonald and Billy Postlethwaite Add Vital Energy to Flawed London Hook-Up Drama

Emma McDonald and Billy Postlethwaite play a young couple who engage in breaking into houses over a holiday weekend in Joy Wilkinson’s inaugural film.

7 Keys

In Joy Wilkinson’s debut feature film, “7 Keys,” Emma McDonald and Billy Postlethwaite portray a young couple who embark on a series of house break-ins over a holiday weekend. The film draws inspiration from the erotic thrillers of the 1980s and 90s, initially showing promise and potential akin to the impulsive hookup that sets the plot in motion. However, as the story unfolds, it veers into a lurid and predictable direction, ultimately leaving much to be desired. Despite this downturn, the early parts of the film exhibit sparks of originality, buoyed by strong performances from McDonald and Postlethwaite, who surpass the limitations of the script.

Debuting in the Visions section at SXSW, “7 Keys,” despite its modest budget, strives to make an impact and may garner interest from streaming platforms. Additionally, it has the potential to catch the eye of casting directors scouting for emerging talents in the industry.

Both Emma McDonald and Billy Postlethwaite have established themselves to some extent in the industry. Prior to “7 Keys,” they collaborated with Joy Wilkinson on the short film “The Everlasting Club.” Additionally, McDonald had a supporting role in the Sundance-premiered film “Layla.” Postlethwaite, known for being the son of the late Pete Postlethwaite, has appeared in notable projects such as “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” and has accumulated experience with smaller roles on British television shows like “Midsomer Murders” and “Game of Thrones.” Recently, he has secured recurring roles in various lesser-known series like “Beforeigners,” “Silo,” and “The Winter King.”

The freshness of the actors’ faces in “7 Keys” adds to the film’s allure, particularly in the early stages where the plot trajectory isn’t immediately obvious. Lena (played by Emma McDonald) is introduced first, leading viewers to expect her as the protagonist, especially as she prepares for a Friday night out after sending her son Cal (Kaylen Luke) to stay with his father Richard (Andrew Scarborough) for the weekend. However, when Lena’s date doesn’t show up at the bar, she strikes up a conversation with Daniel (played by Billy Postlethwaite), a shy computer expert who, like Lena, has been stood up by a potential date.

The initial encounter between Lena and Daniel in “7 Keys” has all the elements of a classic meet-cute, but the script takes a darker turn when Lena follows Daniel home. As their relationship progresses from the first kiss on the couch to their first intimate encounter in the bedroom, Lena notices Daniel’s extensive keyring, containing keys to every place he’s lived in London.

With Lena’s adventurous spirit and Daniel’s growing confidence, they decide to embark on a unique adventure: visiting each of the properties Daniel once lived in. Their intention isn’t to steal but rather to break in, explore, and leave minimal evidence behind. With the bank holiday weekend providing an opportunity when most people are out of town, the duo sees no harm in their plan. But as they delve deeper into their escapade, unforeseen consequences begin to unravel.

As Lena and Daniel delve into their unconventional adventure, they soon discover that neither of them is exactly who they appear to be. The revelation of which one is more damaged and dangerous isn’t entirely surprising, but until the mood darkens, Emma McDonald and Billy Postlethwaite display genuine chemistry on screen. Production and costume designer Natasha Jenkins skillfully creates distinct atmospheres for each of the apartments they visit, using props and styling details to paint a vivid picture of the residents. “7 Keys” effectively captures the diversity of Londoners and neighborhoods, although it frustratingly remains vague about the specific geographical locations of the places they explore.

While “7 Keys” demonstrates potential, there’s a feeling of missed opportunities. Comparisons to Kim Ki-duk’s “3-Iron,” which explored themes of class, voyeurism, and desire through a similar premise of breaking into houses, highlight the richer and stranger territories that could have been explored. Instead, “7 Keys” opts for a simplistic approach, devolving into a cautionary tale about the dangers of sex rather than delving into deeper thematic explorations.

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