In all honesty, 2023 was a very tough year for us at Rhys Reviews as we sadly lost our wonderful community of just under 3000 people on our Facebook page after someone hacked our social media accounts. If you haven’t already, could you support us by dropping our new Facebook page a like at https://www.facebook.com/RhysReviewsoffical? However, we were still lucky enough to experience a wonderful array of musicals/movies/experiences and even managed to bump into a few famous faces! We hope that our and all of our amazing supporters have a fabulous 2023! The first show for us this year is A secret cross’ which is a free online movie that tells the story of Jimmy Stone (played by the wonderful Anthony Tullo) and his wife who suddenly discover that they are being stalked by a mysterious stranger. As the story progresses, the stalker becomes more and more present leading to the appearance of a mysterious cross on the farmland. While hosting this video on YouTube allows a greater audience to experience the movie (as there is no cost attached to it) it does mean that every so often the screen is taken over by a series of advertisements which is fairly distracting. I understand that this is the way the company behind this project can generate an income, but I did find the ads somewhat frustrating.
I have to admit that at first, I was a little concerned at the earlier parts of the movie as Jimmy comes across as a very typical and ordinary man on a ranch which can easily become either a stereotype or very one note. However, as the story progressed the naturalistic portrayal unravels to reveal a series of traumatic events that all connect to what he and his wife are currently experiencing. Seeing this character think back to these experiences and then flash forward to the modern day, can easily be very confusing for the audience but the creative team have managed to showcase this in a way that is easy to understand and follow. Anthony flawlessly takes the audience on a journey from a typical married man to a crazed individual perfectly almost forcing the audience to fully understand why every decision was made. Not only does Anthony star within this movie but “A secret Cross” also marks his directorial debut. Having only limited experience in on and off-stage roles for both theatre and film, I know that on their own these positions can be extremely exhausting and challenging but Anthony manages to do both roles without any hesitation or fear!
The highlight performance within this show for me however would have to be Jeff Joslin who managed to capture the unhinged and violent stalker Willy. Channelling his own personal experience in combat sports, Jeff managed to create a genuinely terrifying and intimidating character who put the audience of the edge of their seat whenever he graced the screen. What I really enjoyed about the creation of this character is that he is essentially a typical person (who does not have any supernatural abilities) which makes the character even more terrifying as it could easily happen in the real world! This is a common idea within the movie itself as everything is set in contemporary farmland. The first moments we met this character in a restaurant is genuinely terrifying as this thug threatens the unassuming owner Mr Mancini (played by the talented Peter Frangella) setting up the unhinged and violent character excellently. At the end of the play, the audience learns that this character ends his own life which ties the story off beautifully which makes a very complete narrative for the audience. Due to the implied violence earlier in the movie and the actual violence that occurs towards the end of the show, this is clearly a show for a more mature audience.
Overall, ‘A secret cross’ is an intense and dramatic movie that has viewers constantly on the edge of their seats! Every twist in the story has been carefully constructed so that they provide bucket loads of drama while still being cohesive and understandable from the audience’s perspective. It explores key themes such as mental health, the effects of trauma and difficult family dynamics which are obviously very important ideas. The show is set in an ordinary farm with a plethora of recognisable characters which when combined with the idea that this show is available free of cost (at https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=STn-coIz7xA&feature=youtu.be) which means that anyone can enjoy this Intense story! I would rate this movie 4 out of 5 stars!