Is Kaleidoscope a modern-day Psycho?

Director: Rupert Jones

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 100 minutes

Cast: Toby Jones, Anne Reid, Sinead Matthews, Cecilia Noble andKarl Johnson.


A psychological thriller about the destructive relationship between a middle-aged man and his mother.


Rupert Jones’ Kaleidoscope is a dark and twisted psychological thriller that delves into the psyche of its fragile protagonist Carl (Toby Jones), a man struggling to rebuild his life on a London housing estate after a brief spell in prison.

There’s a definite hint of Norman Bates about Jones’ portrayal of Carl, a man clearly damaged from a destructive relationship he’s endured at the hands of his mother. Whilst preparing for his first date in nearly 15 years he receives an unwelcome phone call from his mother announcing an impending visit. This unleashes a wave of painful memories for Carl as his past and present begin to collide and his grip on reality begins to violently spiral out of control.

When the police discover a woman’s dismembered body near Carl’s housing estate he begins to question his own sanity as he becomes convinced he murdered his female companion from the night before in a fit of alcohol-fuelled rage.

As you’d expect Jones gives a fantastic central performance, it’s hard not to feel sorry for his character even when he’s at his most pathetic. Carl is a man so intrinsically damaged by his relationship with his mother that he’d consider a meeting with women from a swinging website as a date. He’s carrying considerable emotional baggage and even now as a middle-aged man those scars on his fragile psyche have never fully healed.

Jones’ performance is matched by Anne Reid’s portrayal of Carl’s mother, initially she seems like a sickly sweet old mother, but as the story unfolds her performance begins to ooze insidious menace as she becomes an overbearing presence in Carl’s life.  She’s an unwelcome visitor for Carl at a time when he’s trying to move on in his life and she’s able to manipulate her son with relative ease.

Kaleidoscope is a wonderfully atmospheric feature, it’s dark and moody and boasts accomplished visuals, which are accompanied by Mike Preswood Smith’s fantastically eerie score. The repeated shots of a spiral staircase on Carl’s housing estate feel like a deliberate call-back to early Hitchcock and there’s a definite Lynchian sense about proceedings, not everything that occurs onscreen may not be as it seems.

Told in a fragmented, non-linear way, viewers are left to make up their own mind on what has actually happened; Some may find this ambiguous approach intriguing, perplexing or even downright annoying, but Rupert Jones chooses not to give us all the answers. Is Carl capable of Murder and if so who did he kill?

I’ve got to admit I found the film a tad underwhelming, it’s first half is so wonderfully atmospheric as the tension levels begin to rise, but once the film enters its latter stages it never really resolves itself in a satisfactory manner: becoming less of a who done it, but more so, a who was it.

The ambiguous nature of the narrative means it’s open to several interpretations, I’ve drawn my own conclusions from watching the film, but I won’t reveal them here in case they might be deemed too spoilerific.


Like Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio, Kaleidoscope is a film that’s all about the atmosphere and tension, ultimately its less than the sum of all its parts, but it’s still a film that has interesting things to say about the cause and effect of violence!

Written by Jim McClean @legacurrylad
Share This