It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
In the opening scene of "Morvern Callar," a young woman awakens next to the body of her boyfriend, who has committed suicide during the night. Lights blink on their Christmas tree. His blood is all over the floor. His presents for her are still wrapped and under the tree. On his computer he has left a suicide note ("It just seemed like the right thing to do"), instructions on how to withdraw money from his account, and the manuscript of a novel that he wants her to submit to a list of publishers.
Morvern reads the note, opens the presents (she likes the leather jacket), and walks out into the winter gloom of Glasgow. She stands for a long time on a train platform, until a pay phone rings. She listens to the stranger on the other end of the line and finally says, "I'm sure he'll be all right." That night, she dresses sexy and meets her best friend, Lanna, for a night at the pub that ends with drunken, confused sex with strangers. The boyfriend's body remains on the floor.
Morvern is played by Samantha Morton, who like Isabelle Huppert has a face that can convey enormous emotions without visibly changing. Because she reveals so little, we are drawn into her, fascinated, trying to read her thoughts. You may remember Morton as the musician's deaf-mute girlfriend in Woody Allen's "Sweet and Lowdown," or as the pale, limp "pre-cog" in Spielberg's "Minority Report." Here she is a working class girl, prisoner of a thankless job in a supermarket, whose boyfriend is better educated and more successful.
One of the mysteries of the early stages of "Morvern Callar" is Morvern's behavior after finding the body. She cries, inwardly and privately, but such is her aura that we don't know if she's crying for him, or for herself. He left money for a funeral, but after several days, when she can ignore the body no longer, she cuts it up and throws it away. There is a closeup of the computer screen as she deletes his name on the title page of the novel and types in her own. Is she heartless, crazy, or what? I think the answer is right there in the film, but less visible to American viewers because we are less class-conscious than the filmmakers (the director, Lynne Ramsay, is the daughter of a bartender; Samantha Morton is a survivor of foster homes).