Written by Dominic Aitken and co-directed by Dominic Aitken and Sean Nelis, Praying to Janus follows an empty face through a day where he attends a one-of-a-kind interview for a job he seems desperate to obtain. His routine is timeless, he seems depressed, and any personal details are never revealed. The film has both faults and successes I’d like to address.
Foremost, all of the 15 minutes of cinematography in Praying to Janus are bespoke to be bleak and mellow, to balm the audience in a sterile sea of the grim and the grotty. Unfortunately, what it’s trying to say through this medium is very ambiguous. Whether it’s trying to start an intellectual revolution of the downtrodden through a surrealist preaching, or attempts to show the futility of seeking aid through higher powers when in desire of something, it’s unclear.
Albeit underwhelming, the encapsulating line of it all, “Change can be very overrated,” does bare headway with the film’s merits. At the very start of the film, we see bleak shots of the industrial landscapes of Northern England, we hear BBC Radio 4 on the 7:01 alarm, and it all seems totally familiar, yet certainly not amicable. If that was a goal seeded in the mind of Aitken, he’s definitely not rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
On the other hand, what I found deeply impressive about Praying to Janus, is that it portrays in 15 minutes the trapped nature of a single, lower-class male swimming without a raft through a sea of disappointments regarding career and personal fulfillment. It paints, without the use of any extraordinary techniques, the social state of existing impeccably. The protagonist indeed seems to be praying to the Roman god of transition, and whether his prayers are answered or not is never revealed. I can’t decide if that was a good move.