The Fear of 13

Nick Yarris has had an extraordinary life for a man locked up on Death Row for 30 years. Having taught himself the dictionary and read hundreds of books while in prison (the film’s title comes from one of the long words Nick learned: Triskaidekaphobia), Yarris emerges to take centre stage in The Fear of 13 **, and to tell his story.

I think Yarris must have taken drama classes, too. With his shaven head and husky, tough-talking delivery, his is a magnetic presence, dramatising his own story with all the colour and jazzy pacing of a practised performer, although one’s instinct is to label him one of the most unreliable of narrators, probably the most untrustworthy character in cinema since Bart Layton’s The Impostor.

Director David Sington does his best to reconstruct various aspects of Yarris’ story as if to illustrate, but these inserts merely serve to embellish the narrator’s already florid re-imaginings. I’m not sure what we end up with – it’s a hybrid of compelling confabulation, Fugitive-style thriller, miscarriage of justice doc, prison service and legal system critique all wrapped up in a bit of one-man street theatre.