Incest Or Murder? ‘I Start Counting’ Reviewed

by Rachel Bellwoar

Is it incest if you’re adopted? That’s what Wynne (Jenny Agutter) would like to know, but setting aside the (possible) incest, there are other reasons I Start Counting’s Wynne and George (Bryan Marshall) are not an ideal couple.

It’s never a good sign when you have to use the word “technically,” but technically George and Wynne aren’t related. George is twenty years Wynne’s senior (Wynne is “nearly fifteen”), but while Wynne is interested in him as more than a brother, George doesn’t feel the same way.

The real problem is George might be a murderer and that’s where David Greene’s film sets itself apart from other coming of age stories. At the same time Wynne is grappling with these feelings for her brother, she’s also beginning to suspect he might be responsible for killing a bunch of girls her age.

Written by Richard Harris and based on a novel by Audrey Erskine-Lindop, one of the most interesting things about this movie is the way it handles religion. The only thing we know about Wynne’s birth mother is that she was Catholic, but since Wynne is being raised Catholic, too (unlike her adopted family), that’s not insignificant. Wynne attends a Catholic school and, after consulting a dictionary, it’s a priest she turns to for answers about incest.

As much as the priest dodges her questions and as much as her best friend, Corrinne (Clare Sutcliffe), goads her into asking them, the point is that whenever Wynne is upset or confused, she doesn’t ask her family for help. She turns to the Catholic church. Later another priest gives her the advice, “My child, life should consist of more than memories.” This is after she’s confessed to visiting her childhood home against her mother’s wishes.

In her booklet essay, film historian Amanda Reyes touches on this strange family dynamic: “Everyone feels removed from her life and hardly configures into the mystery.” When Wynne needs to go somewhere, she takes the bus and even in the opening sequence it’s Wynne who wakes herself up to get ready for school in the morning. Greene really lets viewers revel in Brian Eatwell’s production design during this sequence, yet the clock that wakes her up is Popeye themed — a reminder that Wynne is still a child.

In a new interview, Agutter talks about never understanding why such a fuss was made out of her character’s stuffed rabbit. There is a scene in the movie where you learn how Wynne got it but mostly it seems to exist to give the film Alice in Wonderland vibes. Rabbit or no rabbit, Agutter speaks very fondly of the production, and the fact that it will be getting a Blu-Ray release.

Film City Edition’s Blu-Ray comes with a commentary by film historian, Samm Deighan, a video essay by Chris O’Neill (with voiceover by Tori Lyons), and another booklet essay on composer, Basil Kirchin, by Matt Stephenson. Music plays an interesting role in this movie, as it draws attention to what an odd mix of genres this British thriller is.

I Start Counting is available on Blu-Ray now from Fun City Editions.

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