EW — Tucked away beneath the rolling hills and picturesque castles of Inverness, Scotland lies a grim reality at odds with the region’s idyllic charm: according to rising suicide statistics, an area resident takes their own life once every 10 days. It’s an ugly truth actress-director (and Scottish native) Karen Gillan wants to put right under audiences noses in her directorial debut The Party’s Just Beginning.
Gillan — perhaps best known for her work in front of the camera in big-budget studio tentpoles like Guardians of the Galaxy and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle — began work on the script roughly six years ago. Since then, now that she’s had time to “edit out all of those cringe-worthy philosophical rantings” penned in her early twenties, the project broods with haunting, authentic intensity as it explores one woman’s downward spiral on the road to acceptance after her young, transgender friend unexpectedly leaps in front of a train to escape the plights of life. Gillan gives an arresting, emotionally raw performance as the lead character Liusaidh, a reckless 24-year-old who copes with her companion’s death with boozy benders, sex-fueled rangers, and french fry binges. Plagued by visions of her former companion’s final moments, Liusaidh embarks on a quest for solace against the looming shadow of grief — a journey that could either bring her to the brink of death or an empathetic epiphany.
I know you researched a lot about Scotland’s suicide rates before making this movie. Why did it speak to you so much that you wanted to tell a story about it? “It’s not something that I’ve ever dealt with personally, so I had to lean heavily on research and imagination. It’s an interesting statistic for me because I grew up in that part of the world, and it’s so picturesque, idyllic, and beautiful, but it has this sad statistic looming over it. I’d heard it years before writing the script, and it stuck with me.”
Do you feel that you had to approach subjects of suicide, depression, and being transgender with a certain sensitivity, though? Especially since they’re more prominent in films now than they were, say, 10 or 20 years ago. “Yeah, I definitely wanted to treat the subject matter with respect and sensitivity. I’ve seen suicide represented in cinema before but not that much, it’s still fairly unchartered territory and definitely from this perspective, within this film, I wanted to show what it’s like for a person who’s left behind afterwards.”