Despite an artful intention, particularly with the black-and-white cinematography paired with the intercutting of titles with daydreamy footage, there’s something oddly generic about the opening moments of “Creditors.” Even the haunting piano notes sound like they could have been borrowed from another film. It’s nearly too purposefully orchestrated in editing and camerawork, as if each shot attempts to mimic something from a how-to-make-a-movie playbook. Even when the main characters are formally introduced, the strained focusing, the dialogue, and the jumps in time seem artificial; there’s very little organic cohesion happening amidst all the various technical elements, even when they look refined.
When London teacher Grant Pierce (Christian McKay), a longtime fan of artist Freddie Lynch (Ben Cura), arrives at a private auction, an expectedly innocuous event becomes riddled with tension. Lynch offers to put Pierce up for the night, but a British ambassador’s entourage and an unfriendly valet are destined to make the arrangement uneasy. Unexplainably, Lynch continues to spend time with Pierce, as if to adopt a pessimistic, controlling mentor – or a horribly abusive, bitter psychiatrist. As Lynch reveals, also inexplicably, intimate details about his relationship with his novelist wife Chloe (Andrea Deck), it’s evident that Pierce is scheming to destroy the younger man.
“Never trust your wife.” Pierce’s infatuation with Lynch is immediately disconcerting, as if they share a secret relationship with the same mysterious muse. And indeed, as the educator continues to make verbal jabs at Lynch’s absent partner, as well as to provoke the artist’s inability to manage his personal affairs, it becomes more and more apparent that Pierce is up to no good. Strangely, or as an example of poor narration and structuring, the clues are so blunt and telling that there’s barely any secrets to behold.
Though he insists he’s not a doctor, Pierce offers up all sorts of advice and instruction on mental disorders and psychological maneuvers. It’s a bit insulting to the audience that Lynch is so unintelligent or naive when it comes to his association with a complete stranger. And if it weren’t bad enough that Cura’s deliveries are so unconvincing, his adaptation of August Strindberg’s play seems to focus on the most generic aspects of human jealousy – depicted in the most uncinematic of ways. As each scene unfolds, the film deteriorates further, turning the characters into plodding plotters, concocting unoriginal confrontations in hopelessly manufactured scenes. In the end, everything unfolds exactly as anticipated, revealing an extremely predictable mess of oversimplified personas and trite relationship melodrama. There’s simply no creativity or freshness – or even any realism – in the proceedings. And, to top it all off, the story is a downer, dwelling on the depressing, irredeemable nature of self-destruction and vindictiveness.