Paige works at a call center for a life insurance company in north London. Introverted and unassuming, she works in a drab building, her job is unchallenging and she longs for a sense of connection that seems to elude her.
One day, however, she gets on a call with David, a customer who proves unexpectedly charming and seductive over the phone. Though there is nothing overtly forward or provocative about the phone call, there is a frisson of desire there — one that catches fire in Paige’s imagination.
Convinced that there is something more to pursue, she decides to break all the rules of her workplace and seek him out. But embarking on the adventure proves perilous, as Paige finds herself out of her depth in the home of a total stranger.
Writer-director and lead actor Louisa Connolly-Burnham’s decidedly provocative, pulse-stirring thriller offers a raw, intimate and powerful portrait of a woman pursuing her own desires, in a journey that will pull her through danger and confront her with her own limits.
Propelled by a well-crafted screenplay that expertly parses out tension with each beat, the film possesses the kinetic, sharp sheen of a modern-day thriller, crafted with an eye and ear for intrigue, movement and compelling suspense. Paige’s world is rendered in cool, almost wan tones and slick but cold textures, and this version of London is alienating and easy to get lost in. Visually, Paige is often situated in wide shots, lost amidst the urban sea.
But when she encounters David’s voice on the other line, she comes to life as his voice sparks something inside of her: yearning, imagination, and desire. Connolly-Burnham’s brave, honest performance details the transformation of Paige as she breaks free of her restrictions and pursues what she wants, in a rich and full character arc that’s rare for a short narrative. Paige is tentative, apprehensive and uncertain, but also compelled by a powerful compulsion to do and see more. Watching her negotiate that process — as well as her eventual encounter with David — is fascinating, culminating in a climax that will have viewers’ hearts pounding and stomachs churning from anxiety.
Well-crafted, consistently compelling and “The Call Centre” harkens back to the era of films like “Fatal Attraction” or “9 1/2 Weeks” — stories that explored the frontiers of human desire, desperation and violence in a provocative, powerful way.
But “The Call Centre” offers a female empowerment take on the subject, though its particular portrayal of feminine power is complex and intelligent. Paige finds her power, but it is shadowy and unsettling in nature, with its roots in dominance and darkness. In the end, we leave Paige on an ominously clever note, as a changed woman who is mousy no more. What she will pursue and create within her transformation is unclear — though deliciously troubling to guess at, and worthy of another tale.